The first ‘Christmas song’ hovered into my hearing range before we’d even reached December this year; November had yet to enter its dying days when my ears detected the familiar seasonal strains of a festive dirge in my local branch of Wilkos – though who can blame folk for wishing it into existence earlier than usual? To be honest, people are that desperate to have something to look forward to after the last eighteen months that it’s a wonder ‘Fairytale of New York’ or ‘Stop the Cavalry’ weren’t providing shoppers with a supermarket soundtrack when the initial restrictions were lifted back in the summer. Mind you, one of those tweeted online headlines did catch my eye the other day, one about Boris consulting with the Cabinet over whether or not to cancel Christmas 2021. Who does the fat f**k think he is – God? Or at least Oliver Cromwell? Our PM is evidently so drunk on unlimited powers that he seems to believe he has the authority or right to make such a decision. The ramifications of it would only affect me and thee, mind – lest we forget, it has recently emerged that the one place last Christmas wasn’t actually cancelled was 10 Downing Street. Fancy that!
The official Government line when the Daily Mirror revealed an illegal party was held at No.10 on 18 December last year was that there was no party; yes, people were gathered in the same way people would gather for a party, but it wasn’t a party – oh, and all guidance was carefully followed at the party that most definitely wasn’t a party. In case you’ve forgotten, this was the time of tiers; last Christmas, London was in Tier 3, and the guidance in December 2020 read as follows – ‘No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in any indoor space’. Those were the Health Protection Regulations we were all supposed to abide by at the time, the rules we were constantly being reminded of and were advised not to break because to do so would result in police raids, extortionate fines and the wholesale collapse of the NHS. Government guidance made it even clearer – ‘You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity.’ These edicts were issued from on-high and those who delivered them were insistent that we were all in it together.
An anonymous source has told the BBC that at this non-party ‘food and drink was laid on for staff including those from the press office and the Number 10 events team and party games were played.’ Sounds a bit like a party, doesn’t it – even though it wasn’t, of course. The non-party allegedly took place two days after the capital entered Tier 3; earlier that day, the PM had tweeted further warning advice to the general public in reference to a ‘Christmas bubble’, reminding everyone that the day in question marked the start of minimising contact with people from outside one’s own household. And if one happened to live alone, it basically meant no contact with anybody else at all – with any sort of party most certainly verboten. But, as we must constantly emphasise, what took place in Downing Street on 18 December 2020 wasn’t a party, and Boris keeps insisting that no restrictions were contravened despite the fact that restrictions were contravened.
The impression given is that No.10 was this country’s very own Versailles during the depths of the most oppressive lockdowns, with life carrying on along the lines of the old normal rather than the new one. Whilst less fortunate individuals beyond the hedonistic enclave of the PM’s residence were forcibly isolated and many breathed their last without the privilege of family and friends gathered around their deathbed, Downing Street was Studio Fifty-f***ing Four by comparison. Nobody has been reported as recommending the peasants eat cake whilst the political aristocrats partied on, though perhaps Michael Gove might have said ‘Let them snort coke’. The day after the non-party, Boris delivered – with a ‘heavy heart’ (his own words) – the announcement that we couldn’t continue with ‘Christmas as planned’; he was castigated for leaving such a speech till the eleventh hour, throwing the best-laid plans of millions into disarray and provoking a flight from London that resembled the evacuation of Saigon – yet he apparently didn’t consider the rules applied to him and his team. Granted, like most, it’s hard to think of anything less appealing than a party for Tory MPs and their staff; but that’s not really the point.
December 2020 was also the moment at which the police were in their most Jobsworth killjoy mode, actively on the hunt for outlawed social gatherings and relishing breaking up wedding parties or gate-crashing religious services. That very month, Leicestershire Police circulated a video of a raid on a party containing more than 60 people at a house in Leicester and proudly announced the two organisers of it were fined £10,000 each. Meanwhile, the Met had specified that ‘holding large gatherings could be the difference between life and death for someone else’, going on to say that ‘you must not mix inside with anyone who is not in your household or support bubble’. Pretty clear-cut statement from an organisation that now declares it does not ‘routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations’ whilst simultaneously prosecuting an alleged illegal gathering that took place on 18 December last year…at a house in Ilford.
The quartermaster’s stores of American air bases during WWII were notoriously crammed with goods the rationed natives had no access to – with the exception of spivs who did a healthy black market trade through having contacts on the inside. Although US forces were invited guests as opposed to an elite group of British citizens living in luxury, knowledge of how GIs were being spared the privations that the public were suffering must have stoked a degree of resentment at the time. But can that be anything like the resentment so many feel today towards our elected representatives and their shameless hypocrisy? Only a few weeks ago Comrade Mark Drakeford, the Labour leader of the People’s Republic of Wales and one of the most rigid advocates of the toughest pandemic restrictions, was caught on camera doing his bit for diversity by dancing around at a packed Diwali gathering sans mask. Another Labour MP, Zarah Sultana recently declared ‘I feel incredibly unsafe in the chamber…I see most of the Tories not wearing masks’, and then tweeted images of herself having a good time at the MOBO awards, surrounded by people and – you guessed it – sans mask.
It goes without saying that most of these cretins are incredibly stupid people, and were their stupidity restricted to themselves we could all have a good laugh at their expense. But when powers reside in the hands of such idiots, powers that can affect the lives of millions, the joke isn’t quite so funny anymore. The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rhetoric of preaching without practising is especially grating to those who suffered the most during lockdowns and who are dreading the reintroduction of measures that were responsible for that suffering – measures promoted and policed by political figures not prepared to abide by rules the rest of us were no more keen to abide by but had no say in the matter. Yes, we’re so accustomed to double standards on the part of the political class of all colours that we expect nothing less now, though the whole story of the Downing Street Christmas party-that-never-was is particularly poignant considering just how hard it was for so many in this country when Boris and chums were playing pass-the-parcel. If the PM is seriously contemplating cancelling Christmas again (thanks to the latest convenient variant), I suspect few will – or indeed should – practise what Boris preaches.
© The Editor