So, it was all ‘technically within the rules’ – I wonder if that would’ve worked as an excuse for two pals sharing a packet of crisps on a park bench when confronted by an over-officious Officer of the Law and told they were engaged in an illegal picnic? Probably not; but then, as we all know, those who invent the rules and regulations don’t live by them while we are expected to. Yes, some of us suspected the pandemic’s Project Fear was little more than a smokescreen for rushing through draconian legislation that would remain on the statute books thereafter as an unprecedented means of a democratically-elected government acting out its totalitarian fantasies, but we were written off as conspiracy theorists, of course. Then again, many shrewd observations of events were received with similarly dismissive contempt as the masses followed the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra of the political class. Indeed, we ought not to forget that HM Opposition enthusiastically pushed for – and demanded even more of – the ridiculous restrictions that few could realistically expect to live under, ones Boris was hardly alone in breaking. But as the star salesman for them, he stands to lose more than anyone else – as HM Opposition knows only too well.
Naturally, we shouldn’t expect the Met to pursue this issue; they may have revelled in their role as storm-troopers for the cause – as did all the Jobsworths promoted to positions of ‘power’ when playing at law enforcers outside supermarkets or at family funerals; but their ultimate taskmasters are above the law and won’t be punished or prosecuted for such flagrant abuse of a law they promoted as a ‘do or die’ policy that they were evidently exempt from, a law that only applied to everyone outside their bubble. Hell, this was obvious extremely early on when Dominic Cummings journeyed Oop North for his impromptu eye-test at a time when even motorists were confined to ‘zones’. It was obvious a little later when Matt ‘goose’ Hancock was exposed as a hypocrite courtesy of some convenient CCTV. And now it’s obvious once again following a string of belated revelations that confirm Downing Street as the capital’s ‘bring your own booze’ Party Central.
In May 2020, a time when the plebs practically required a written excuse to leave their homes and were only allowed to meet one other individual out of doors whilst enduring sixty minutes of exercise, Boris and his gang were having a wine and cheese party – sorry, ‘work event’ – in the garden at No.10; that same month, with restrictions for the rest still being firmly enforced by coppers and Covid Marshals, 30-odd invited guests were enjoying some ‘socially distanced drinks’ in the same swinging location alongside Mr and Mrs Johnson; in November 2020, a gathering in the Downing Street flat hosted by Carrie allegedly took place (Lady Macbeth denies it), whilst a leaving do for a No.10 aide was also held there a fortnight later; but it was Christmas 2020 in Tier Two London that was the real party season for our lords, ladies and masters. The Department of Education had a staff shindig on the 10th; the Conservative Party hosted an ‘unauthorised event’ at their London HQ on the 14th; Boris drew on his past experience presenting ‘Have I Got News for You’ when chairing a ‘Christmas Quiz’ for Downing St staff on the 15th; and some sources also claim the infamous Xmas bash the Daily Mirror finally got round to exposing a year late was held on the 18th.
Under normal circumstances, office events in the weeks leading up to Christmas are par for the course, and there’s no reason to think government departments are any different from endless other businesses up and down the country. Let’s face it, who the hell would ordinarily care if Downing St staff and a few pug-ugly Ministers indulged in a festive tipple and the odd under-the-mistletoe grope? It’s not as if anybody feels aggrieved that they weren’t invited to such a gruesome get-together. But it’s all about context, innit. These were not normal circumstances. When the Downing St Xmas party marathon was in full swing, Tier Two rules stated it was illegal for two or more people emanating from different households to meet indoors. It goes without saying that many ignored these rules in the same way that many had little choice but to support the black-market economy during WWII by buying essential items from street-corner spivs; but taking such a risk when heavy fines and possible prison sentences were the trumpeted punishment was something entered into out of desperation after months of social isolation. What really grates is that not only those who aggressively demanded tougher restrictions and penalties via a media platform were caught out disregarding the rules (remember Kay Burley’s birthday conga across the capital?), but the very people responsible for drilling them into the petrified populace weren’t adhering to them either.
If our lawmakers genuinely believed lockdowns, social distancing, social bubbles, tracking, tracing and masks were the absolute difference between life and death – and repeatedly told us so during their doom-laden press conferences – then why didn’t they live by them in the same way they expected the rest of us to? If these extreme measures were the only life-saving solution, surely those who devised them must have figured they ought to abide by them too? But they didn’t – probably because they didn’t believe it; many didn’t believe it, but while the few partied on regardless the many were bombarded and browbeaten by ‘The Science’ and were threatened into submission by the prospect of astronomical fines and/or an agonising demise without family or friends entitled to gather round their deathbeds. Sadly, the latter fate came to pass for thousands, and it’s totally understandable that some of the most incensed responses to the truth of government double standards have come from those denied the right to be with their loved ones as they breathed their last.
In the Commons yesterday, Boris was faced with little choice but to admit he attended at least one of the Downing St shindigs but continued to deny he did anything wrong, still sticking to the ‘work event’ narrative. ‘With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside,’ he said. ‘I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that – even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way…I regret the way the event I have described was handled. I bitterly regret it and I wish we could have done things differently.’ Amidst the pathetic acceptance of this ‘apology’ by Tory toadies ascending the greasy poll, we need to note the distance between event and apology; had none of this come out over a year later, most of us would remain in the dark and Boris would hardly be likely to volunteer the information anymore than Richard Nixon would have voluntarily spoken about anything to do with Watergate had he not painted himself into a corner. There are few apologies as hollow and disingenuous than that of a politician caught out and forced to say sorry.
The notorious old rake Lord Boothby once said ‘the Tory Party is ruthless’ in relation to how it disposes of its leader, and when one thinks of how IDS was ousted before he’d even fought a General Election or, more infamously, how Mrs T was unceremoniously forced out, it’s hard to dispute Boothby’s claim. One wonders if this really is Boris’s ninth life, but there has always been a vocal section of the Party that has never warmed to him and never wanted him as leader, so a chorus of criticism from his own side isn’t exactly unprecedented. At the moment, the PM’s Ministers are publicly backing him, though the 1922 Committee only requires 54 backbenchers to register their complaints to trigger a challenge. At the same time, the internal machinations of the Conservative Party are secondary to the genuine anger felt way beyond the point-scoring circus of the Commons; millions of people made the sacrifices they were asked to make for the greater good, and Boris Johnson wasn’t one of them.
© The Editor