Why we’re so livid about the Downing Street parties

I’ve not had a huge amount of sleep. I went to bed too late and woke up too early.

Why? I’m livid. And, like many millions of people, emotions that I’ve been struggling with but keeping below the surface, are breaking through.

We’ve been going through hell, and the more we hear about the culture in Government that made them think that it was fine to sit outside in the sunshine and party when millions couldn’t comfort their dying or bereaved relatives, or had to endure intolerable suffering alone, the more we relive our experiences.

If you watched the BBC News last night, you’ll have seen a woman called Lisa recount how she had to watch her brother take his last breath on an iPad at around the same time the May 2020 BYOB party was going on in the Downing Street Garden. She is a friend of mine. So is her sister Jenni, who spoke to the Daily Record:

Jenni said: “They were telling us to stick to the rules but they thought it was OK to have a party.

“We couldn’t comfort one another but they’re having cheese and wine in the garden. They’re laughing at us and think this is OK?”

“We feel traumatised by what has happened, almost like we have PTSD because of our experience and then all these revelations come out that Boris and his staff are telling us to do one thing while they do another.

“I just don’t get it. It’s time for him to go.”

They are not alone.

Most of us bear the scars of this pandemic to a certain extent. If we hadn’t obeyed the rules, the death toll from Covid would have been so much higher. Staying at home for months on end was the only way to protect ourselves and others from a deadly virus.

But that came at a huge cost for many.

I am thinking of someone I love very much who wasn’t able to see their friends for months on end. They became very seriously ill as a result and could have lost their life. I heard yesterday about others who had not been so lucky and whose loved ones had died by suicide.

And then we have to think about those who work in jobs where they dealt with others’ life-threatening trauma on a daily basis:

Millions of us have had to endure, or watch people we love endure intolerable suffering. And we kept our heads down and got on with it for pretty much two years.

Most of the time, we’re fine, but when we hear about a culture in Government that made them think it was ok to sit outside in the garden together boozing when most of us could only meet one person from another household, those emotions hit us with the force of being run over by an armoured truck.

As I write this, the tears are pricking the back of my eyes.

These parties show the Government at its uncaring worst and, by sending the hapless Paymaster General to not answer questions very well in the Commons yesterday, they rub salt into millions of wounds.

Christine Jardine summed the sense of betrayal we feel very well:

This is no longer just about Boris Johnson, although Ed Davey is right to say that he has to go. It’s about the whole rotten shower of them. All of them who participated in a culture where it was ok to hand out our money to their mates, to act as if the rules that they imposed on the rest of us didn’t apply to them and whose repeated failures to deal with various stages of the pandemic adequately cost so many lives.

From Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle to the now numerous accounts of parties across Government, to Matt Hancock’s egregious breach of social distancing rules, the Government as a whole has taken us all for fools. And our reaction to it is so intense because it is so personal.

A Government that parties while the nation struggles cannot expect to have any sort of respect. Their parliamentary majority means that we are stuck with them for a while yet, but they do not deserve their power, and nor should they be led by a man who obviously doesn’t give a damn.

But whatever Boris Johnson does today, it’s not going to relieve the pain and trauma so many people are going through because of his government.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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10 Comments

  • Bang on Caron. It is right to be emotional about this. My daughter spent her 18th birthday in our flat (no outside space) cooped up with us. The “party” was a birthday banner on the balcony and a chocolate cake bought online. She couldn’t even go to her favourite cafe down the road.

    My lovely neighbour who had given birth hours before stood on the balcony to our flats, socially distanced, and propped up the newborn so we could have a peak. I didn’t invite them in.

    January 29th Hampshire police stopped us in our local park to check it was our only outing of the day (it was). Torches. Shouting “Stop Police” the full works. Absurd.

    Welcome to our world Boris. No wonder we are angry.

  • Neil James Sandison 12th Jan '22 - 10:36am

    There seems to be one common theme that runs through all of these parties and gatherings and that common factor is drink . Lets ask the question .Does Boris Johnson have a drink problem should he resign so that he can get treatment for his alcohol problem and perhaps return to public life when he on the wagon and sober .

  • Spot on! Well said!

    I’m not sure what’s worse, the parties or the belief that they could/can get away with this.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Jan '22 - 7:55pm

    Sober or not Johnson is not fit to lead our country. No more lies or excuses. He must go now

  • Matt Haines 13th Jan '22 - 9:24am

    I have to agree with Martin.

    May drew a line under the Cameron years, then Johnson drew a line under the May years. The electorate were so convinced that a new leader was such a break from the previous leader, they even managed to run a GE election campaign with slogans around us all “deserving better” and still won a majority.

    Any new leader will certainly put the blame solely on Johnson himself, rather than the rotten Tory party culture, and present themselves as yet another new beginning. The electorate will fall for it… Again.

    I disagree they will call an early GE as they will be wary of May’s mistake. But they will certainly head into the GE in a strong position under a new leader.

    Unfortunately, for the greater good of removing Tories from power, Johnson has to stay.

  • I couldn’t agree less. The rich and powerful have always felt entitled, and the garden parties are simply more of the same. Regarding the tragic stories of those who died or were otherwise deeply affected by Covid, I do sympathise, but I don’t see the connection with what happened in Downing Street. If those parties had not taken place, would anyone’s tragedy have been any the less?
    What are we really saying here? Do we think being rich and powerful shouldn’t come with some privileges? If it didn’t, what would be point of being rich and powerful?

  • In the wake of ‘partygate’ the usual suspects have gone, at least in public, to “Save Our Boris” overdrive..
    Watching Rees-Mogg last night calling the Leader of Scotland’d Tories a ‘lightweight’ reminded me of the old adage of throwing passengers out of the sleigh.. The lack of respect from Westminster will be manna, if any more were needed, to the SNP cause..

  • Well said, Ian Shires! It’s all very well, our bleating with the flock, I’ve been doing it myself. And indeed, our shepherd proves a fathead, as we’ve all been proclaiming for some months, and by many longer. But your brief summary of how the Conservatives have become more and more irrational, short-termist, and greedy, to the detriment of almost all of us will, I hope, quell our joyful clamour, and turn now to looking ahead, not merely to an early General Election, but in particular to one one in which all decent parties unite at the very least least in urging PR, and the strategy to get there.

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