A Political One.
Integrity. Transparency. Honesty. Accountability. All essential qualities that a government need to strive for, and that the people should look for in their leadership. Particularly during times of hardship and crisis, the government must lead by example; playing by the rules that they themselves have set.
But this is not the case in the UK.
I like to write about nice things that I enjoy, and am passionate about. I don't like making political posts on here. It's a divisive subject, and I completely understand people's reluctance to engage in political discourse in a world where disagreement is shunned, and the media perpetuates such a vitriolic "Us vs. Them" mentality, where the person that disagrees with you is instantly labelled a "Nazi", a "snowflake" or a "libtard." But, there are moments every now and then that I think warrant attention and outrage from both sides of the spectrum, regardless of your political leanings.
Boris Johnson is unfit to lead. His entire term as Prime Minister has been a cocktail of ineptitude, greed, dishonesty and tone-deaf complacency. And no more has this been evident than in the recent scandal surrounding last year's Conservative Christmas party, which took place at Downing Street on the 18th of December. Despite the evidence continuing to mount against him, Johnson still refuses to acknowledge that a party took place, or that COVID restrictions were broken during the Christmas period of last year. But before we jump into this scandal, let's just take a quick trip down memory lane and reflect back on the Conservative party's track record of breaking lockdown restrictions prior to this:
Dominic Cummings' now infamous Durham & Barnard Castle trip in April of 2020 was the first crack in the party's integrity regarding compliance of their own rules. Although not a Member of Parliament, Cummings was Johnson's Senior Advisor, and by all accounts had no excuse to drive 260 miles from his family home for his wife's birthday. In a bizarre press conference, Cummings defended his actions, citing that he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight(?!), whilst his young son sat in the back of the car. I think Martin Clunes highlights the absurdity of it all in this beautiful quote: "Let's be honest, who hasn't decided to test their eyesight under a strict lockdown during a terrifying global pandemic by strapping their young child into the car and heading to a town in Teasdale?" Everything about this trip, its justification, the press conference, and the fact that he remained employed for months after the story unfolded, is baffling. It's almost unheard of for political advisors to made public statements like this, and for no-one in the cabinet to publicly condemn Cummings' actions, but rather defend them, was shocking. For Cummings and his family to have made a round trip of over 500 miles during the height of the first lockdown, when it was explicitly stated that to do so was breaking the law, and for no repercussions to have landed his way, is simply obscene. Cummings made no apologies, and doubled down on his actions, stating that he did not regret them. There is no doubt that his actions spurred on a surge in breaches of lockdown. The police reported a subsequent rise in exactly that, with members of the public claiming that they felt justified in their own breaches because Dominic Cummings had got away with it himself. The only amusing element of this whole scandal was the fact that the phrase "Barnard Castle" is an old Durham slang response to someone making a ridiculous excuse for their actions, which sums up his entire justification perfectly.
Similarly infamous is Matt Hancock's marriage-ending, ass-grabbing kiss and embrace with his aide Gina Coladangelo which was caught on camera in May of this year. Hancock was the Health Secretary at the time, and had dug his own grave with endless pleas for caution, care and following the guidance when it came to Coronavirus:
"We should all be careful. We all know the risks. Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact [...] Personal responsibility is an important mantra here - people have been so responsible in the crisis, they’ve really listened and followed the guidance and that’s the approach we should take together." Yes, Matt Hancock, we should all be careful, except when you want a quick bit of action at work while you're away from your wife and family, hm? Unlike Cummings, Hancock didn't get away quite so easily with this one. Because the whole thing was caught on camera, and due to Hancock's position not only as an MP, but as Health Secretary, this was seen as a more serious breach, and Hancock did the right thing in resigning from his position. Despite this, he still stands as a Member of Parliament and as a representative for the Conservative Party. It is understood that Ms. Coladangelo as left her role in the Department of Health. Some have commended Hancock for his resignation, but the fact of the matter is that he only resigned once he'd been caught red-handed. There's no honour or goodwill earned in admitting you fucked up after it's been shown that you fucked up.
Less prominent, but equally as damning and hypocritical, are the reports that Conservative MPs Robert Jenrick and Bob Seely both broke lockdown rules last year, with Jenrick travelling 40 miles in a visit to his parents in Spring. He claimed that he had travelled simply to drop off food and medicine, but eyewitness reports stated that he was found socialising in his parents' front garden. He also reportedly made a trip to his second home, a breach which was considered serious enough for Scotland's chief medical officer to resign over when she was found having done the same thing.
Bob Seely, meanwhile, broke lockdown rules in June of 2020 where he attended a barbecue with journalists and a chairman of the Brexit party. In both instances, no action was taken against the MPs, and they are still very much employed.
Right. Now that we're all caught up, let's take a look at the current evidence regarding last year's Conservative Christmas party, or parties.
Exhibit A - leaked footage of the Prime Minister's (now former) Press Secretary Allegra Stratton, joking in-between takes with Conservative staffer Ed Oldfield as part of preparations for daily televised briefings hosted by Stratton. In the video, staff joke about the event being "cheese and wine", and that it was a "business meeting". Stratton jokingly refers to the event as "fictional", but admits that it "was not socially distanced".
Exhibit B - footage from this year, where Jacob Rees-Mogg addressed members of the Institute of Economic Affairs. In the video he makes light of social distancing measures - "You are all very carefully socially distanced. We have moved, I am pleased to tell you, from the metric back to the Imperial system: I notice you are all at least two inches away from each other which is, as I understand it, what the regulations require." And then goes on to state: "...This party is not going to be investigated by the police in a year's time." - An obvious acknowledgement that there was indeed a party, and a tasteless joke at the expense of those who have followed the rules.
Exhibit C - outright admittance from the Department for Education that they held a Christmas party whilst under Tier 2 lockdown restrictions, where up to two dozen staff gathered for drinks, games and Secret Santa. A source inside Downing Street claimed that get-togethers were frequently seen in the evenings when restrictions were in place, with events being held "most Fridays", and the PM said to have given a speech for the leaving party of a colleague on the 27th of November - at the height of the second national lockdown.
Exhibit D - leaked footage and reports of Boris Johnson holding a Christmas quiz at Number 10, with staff clearly in breach of social-distancing measures and enjoying alcohol together from their local Tesco. This took place on December the 15th, whilst London was still under Tier 2 restrictions, forbidding mixing of households indoors that weren't in a support bubble.
Exhibit E - an article outlining that the PM had invited senior editors from major publications into Downing Street on the same day that he had attending a leaving party for Dominic Cummings' aide, Cleo Watson, and that he “came in and made a speech, mentioning how crowded it was in the room before leaving.”
Every single one of these pieces of evidence indicates that the law had not been followed by dozens of members of various departments of the government. That alone would be bad enough, but for me the worst element here is the tone in which staff, and Leader of the House of Commons, Rees-Mogg, take. They laugh and make light of their own reckless abandon for social distancing measures and disregard for the law. Let's not forget that in December of last year, there were almost 500 daily deaths due to Coronavirus in this country. That figure would double over the next couple of weeks, and there were over 2,000 people admitted to hospital every day during this period who were suffering with COVID-19, with over half of them on ventilators. Let's take a conservative estimate here and assume that each of these people had 10 family members and/or friends who weren't able to see them in hospital, or, tragically, spend time with them before they passed away. That's 20,000 people every day who weren't able to visit their loved ones while they were going through a horrible, harrowing period of illness. The overwhelming majority of people in the UK took the tier systems seriously, abided by lockdown laws and made great personal, social, economic and mental sacrifices in the name of the greater good, not overwhelming the NHS and ultimately preserving life. For so many senior Tory MPs, aides, staff and advisers to have repeatedly and carelessly broken these rules is callous, hypocritical and disrespectful to the entire nation - in particular those who lost family and friends and didn't get to say goodbye or pay their respects.
It has now been reported that there were up to seven Tory Christmas parties over the Holiday period last year. Allegra Stratton has quite rightfully resigned over the comments she made in the leaked video, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. She just happened to be the one caught out in that video, and her resignation alone should not be taken as justice for the blasé attitude of the Conservative Party and its staff regarding breaches of their own laws. As I mentioned, the Prime Minister himself still refuses to acknowledge that any of these parties or gatherings took place - and he has been accused by Labour Leader Kier Starmer as "taking the public for fools". Johnson and his gang have repeatedly rebutted the many accusations over the events of last Christmas, attempting to shift focus to this Christmas, "rather than focusing on the events of a year ago...". Whilst I acknowledge that it's important to keep up efforts to push vaccinations, boosters etc. and minimise the impact of the omicron variant, you don't get off scott-free for your past crimes. And despite what Dominic Raab thinks, the Police do in fact still investigate things that happened a year ago.
And let me be clear - these aren't judgments that I hold simply because I am a liberal "loonie leftie". These are judgments that I am making because I fundamentally believe that those who govern should be held to the same level of scrutiny and subject to the same laws as the rest of us. I believe that the ruling class should inspire and lead through their actions, and the fact that this isn't the case should be cause for major concern. If I was a Conservative voter, I would be equally as furious - if not moreso - as the party I had put my faith and support into had let me down so shamefully. And if this had all happened under any other party rule, I would be equally as let down and frustrated.
We live in an era of constant, dizzying reports of all of the awful things that are going on around us. Outrage sells, and there'll no doubt be something else to be outraged at by the time this article is published. But what I want you to do, dear reader, is simply this: Do not forgive. Do not forget. Remember the deceitful words and actions that our government have made, and hold them accountable. When election season rolls around, bear all of this in mind. They serve us, and they should not be above the law.
I could go on about this government's numerous other blunders, mishaps, lies and atrocities, but I have tried to keep this piece focused in on this singular issue. And yes, whilst on the surface this seems to be a rather big deal over what boils down to a number of Christmas parties, you have to take a step back and reflect on how it's being handled. If they're lying about this, what else have they been dishonest about? There is irrefutable evidence that gatherings took place, and yet the PM denies this. The tone-deaf candid laughter of staff behind closed doors juxtaposed against the thousands were denied time with sick and dying loved ones. The dishonesty, hypocrisy and rule-bending of MPs and staff both before and after the Christmas parties - are these really the kind of people that we can trust to adhere to those principles I mentioned in the opening paragraph? Integrity, transparency, honesty; and accountability? Or, are they in it for themselves, saying one thing and doing another? Outwardly posing as champions of the people, suffering in isolation and loneliness as many millions have around the world, whilst secretly holding boozy soirees and joking at the expense of the public. In the words of Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP: "This is not just about a party at Downing Street last Christmas, this is about the credibility of the government this Christmas."
I said back in December of 2019 that I wanted to believe Boris Johnson. I wanted to believe that he would deliver on all of his campaign manifesto promises, and that his version of Brexit would bring all of the freedom, prosperity and sovereignty that he so loudly shouted about for months. I raised concern, however, that he didn't have a great track record. He'd lost two jobs in the past due to dishonesty. He admitted that the £350 million a week for the NHS if we left the EU was "wrong", but was more than happy to pose in front of the bus for PR. He pledged to eradicate homelessness in London, but under his tenure as Mayor, homelessness doubled. He's been accused of lying to his own ethics advisor, and even lying to the Queen.
I said it then and I'll say it again - his consistency when it comes to dishonesty is astounding. As much as I hate to say it, this scandal over the Christmas party and his entire attitude to his own party's rule-breaking is not surprising. It's predictable. Hold this man and his party to account. Simply do not vote Conservative if any of what the Tory actions I have mentioned in this article upsets, angers, offends or outrages you. Even if you are a traditionally Conservative voter, this behaviour should be abhorrent to you. You deserve better than this two-faced sniggering crowd of delinquent schoolboys playing at governing, but ultimately failing to grasp the gravity of their actions and the repercussions of their carelessness. Our country quite simply deserves better.
Can't get enough of this topic? Well, I've got some good news for you. I've put together a short list of related articles, videos and other content from around the web that is related to what I've written about. Feel free to click away and take your brain on an adventure.