Despite a devastating set of local election results, many Conservatives were excited Friday night.
With exquisite timing, Durham Constabulary announced that it would, after all, reopen its investigation into whether Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules by drinking curry and having a beer with colleagues in April 2021.
After weeks of miserable headlines about parties in Downing Street, during which the Labor leader repeatedly called for Boris Johnson to step down, it was a chance for the Conservatives to finally get back in the lead.
Many of them seized this opportunity with both hands, gleefully pointing out that it would be the height of hypocrisy if Starmer didn’t live up to the standards he set for others and promise to back out if he received a fixed fine.
But not for the first time, they didn’t really think about the consequences of what they were saying.
Imagine for a moment what would happen if Starmer was fined and then announced his resignation.
It would no doubt be extremely upsetting for Labour, who would again be thrown into a divisive leadership contest at a time when they should be focusing all their energies on holding the prime minister and his government to account.
But it would also put the spotlight back on the prime minister’s repeated refusal to step down, despite the fact that he was fined for attending a birthday party for himself at the Cabinet Office and there may well be more sanctions to come.
People would rightly ask why it was right for the opposition leader to go, but not Johnson either.
How Patrick Maguire of The Times revealed, more sensible conservatives are aware of the dangers and are debating whether the party should moderate its attacks on Starmer.
As David Simmonds MP told other members of the Conservatives’ 2019 entry into a WhatsApp group: “The only ‘good’ outcome I can see is if Starmer gets fined and doesn’t resign. Any other outcome only makes us look worse in comparison.”
This also explains why Jacob Rees-Mogg also suggested to Andrew Neil that Starmer does not need to resign, even if he is fined.
He said, “I think he should pay a fine and then talk about matters of great importance to the nation.”
Of course, Durham police may well stick to their original conclusion that no rules were broken by the Labor leader, who will then be able to turn his fire on the prime minister once more.
But if they overturn his decision and decide he broke the law at the time, it will be devastating for him – but it could also end up being fatal for Boris Johnson.