The Telegraph wrote:Never again will these hypocrites take us for fools
Downing Street's 'bring your own booze' shindigs are an outrageous betrayal of our sacrifices – what the hell were they playing at?
What were you doing on May 20, 2020? Not a lot, obviously. The country was in full lockdown. We were not allowed to have anyone who wasn’t a member of our own household in the house or garden. Under national Covid restrictions, only two people were permitted to meet outside while staying at least two metres apart. Bombarded with instructions to stay home, stay safe, nearly all the people I know were jumpy and obedient to a fault. We were all in it together.
May 20, 2020, was the day that many 15-year-olds should have been taking their first GCSE. A big day. Cancelled, along with so much else in their young lives. Parents were soon dealing with moody, depressed teenagers who yearned to be with their peer group, not shut up with mum and dad. It was about then that reports of anorexia and self-harming rose alarmingly.
May 20, 2020, was the 16th birthday of a friend’s son. His party was cancelled, of course, and his mates, who should have been having fun in the garden, brought presents which they posted over the gate. Not for them a chance to “make the most of the lovely weather”, as Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, urged in an email inviting a hundred Downing Street staff to a bring-a-bottle garden party.
If ordinary people attended such a gathering, they were arrested or fined. Four students in Nottingham were fined £10,000 after police broke up a party attended by 30 people. A 22-year-old was found guilty of “holding or being involved in a gathering of more than 30 people in a private dwelling contrary to Health Protection Regulations 2020”. He was fined £1,000.
Students who struggled to make friends without flouting restrictions were even demonised for daring to travel to their hometown, and then fined. To hell with their mental health; rules were rules.
Some sacrifices on May 20, 2020, are almost too painful to write down. Annie recalls: “The day they had that party in Downing Street, my son was dying in hospital 160 miles away and nobody was allowed to visit him. He didn’t even have Covid. He died alone not seeing his pregnant wife.”
Millions like Annie were not permitted to visit their wives, husbands and elderly parents in care homes on May 20, 2020. Through windows or on FaceTime, they looked on helplessly as that beloved person dwindled. Care home residents, effectively prisoners of lockdown, were not permitted to “make the most of the lovely weather” as they were doing in Downing Street.
What the hell did No 10 think they were playing at? Holding a party at that time was a clear breach of faith with the British people, an outrageous, tin-eared, tone-deaf betrayal of all the sacrifices we were making. Did they really make no connection between the solemn briefings in which they warned us of the dire consequences of breaking the rules and the grotesque inappropriateness of a jolly email inviting a hundred people to “bring your own booze”? At least some members of staff were in possession of a working conscience. “Is this for real?” wrote one official. “Um. Why is Martin [Reynolds] encouraging a mass gathering in the garden?” said another. Quite.
Placeholder image for youtube video: ltBBz5_2LOo
In an address to the country on May 11, 2020, the Prime Minister reiterated the importance of everyone following the rules. “You can meet one person outside of your household outdoors, provided you stay two metres apart,” rumbled Boris in his best historic statesman voice. “The social distancing measures remain absolutely crucial.” Is it really possible that, just nine days later, Boris and Carrie Johnson attended a party which drove a fleet of coaches and a herd of stampeding stallions through those restrictions? Surely not.
People who say “they were working incredibly hard and deserved to let off steam” miss the point. We are talking about an unprecedented stripping away of the liberties of an entire nation. It caused an ocean of suffering. Thousands of businesses would never reopen. The father and stepmother of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes were free to torture that dear little boy at will because Government rules had shut primary schools and prevented concerned relatives from entering the house.
If you inflict such harsh, draconian measures on 65 million people, if police chastise pensioners for sitting too close on a park bench, then you’d better be damn sure that your own conduct is beyond reproach. Look at our faultless Queen, quite alone at her husband’s funeral, putting herself through what so many of her subjects had endured. She got it.
It’s not just the hypocrisy that enrages me. All the people who attended that party in the Downing Street garden knew full well that Covid wasn’t the plague – not even close. They had access to all the data. They weren’t scared to attend a boozy party because they seemingly thought it wasn’t a risk for them. (It wasn’t a risk for the majority of us, certainly not for students or children.) Yet did they withhold that knowledge from the public? They continued to ramp up the propaganda to spread fear so that people would blindly obey the rules which some of them were cheerfully breaking.
If there’s one thing human beings cannot abide, it’s unfairness. This is not something that will easily blow over. Like me, you may find yourself feeling slightly sick at the thought that we were not, as advertised, all in this together. The Prime Minister’s unprincipled principal private secretary has handed a baseball bat to Labour, which they will use with relish. Downing Street said that Martin Reynolds has the PM’s “full confidence”. Well, he hasn’t got anybody else’s. Reynolds is a damn fool who should resign immediately, if he hasn’t done so by the time you read this.
As for Boris, with the Metropolitan Police now looking into this latest party, the PM is going to need a bigger bus to throw people under. We await the findings of Sue Gray, a senior Cabinet Office official, who is conducting a probe into allegations of No 10 rule-breaking events during the pandemic. If she finds that Downing Street staff did attend an illegal party and were “outside the home without a reasonable excuse”, then I reckon they should be fined, exactly as all those poor students were fined for the crime of being young and having a good time.
On May 20, 2020, as my calendar reminds me, I did as I was finally allowed to do. I dashed through the rain to a park where I saw my friend Lou for the first time in two months. Gosh, we wanted to hug each other so badly. Instead, we stood “at least two metres apart” and opened our arms wide in an imaginary embrace, grinning like idiots.
Actually, we were idiots. We know that now. Complete and utter fools. How stupid to feel so anxious that we might have misunderstood the rules and were doing something wrong (but we did). What madness to accept being told it was OK “to meet one person outside – provided you stay two metres apart” by our alleged betters who were throwing a boozy knees-up that very night. Never again.
Never again must we let a government assume so much control over our lives. Never again should we accept the imposition of cruelly disproportionate measures by rank hypocrites who knew what the real risks were and did as they pleased.
Let me leave you with the anguished reaction to the No 10 party of Robert Styler, a lifelong Conservative voter and donor, who was not permitted to visit Josephine, his “teenage sweetheart” and wife of 60 years, in her care home. “Allison, I sit here in the beautiful home that Josephine made. Still grieving, like many thousands of others who were not allowed to cradle their loved ones into the unknown, with my imaginary size 15 boots on, ready and willing to kick out the occupants of 10 Downing Street. I will not be resigning my membership of the Conservative Party, because I want to use my vote to help to remove our current Prime Minister from office. He has become a liability, untrustworthy and presiding over an administration whose judgement must now be called into question.”
I know millions of loyal Tories will share Robert’s distress.
What were you doing on May 20, 2020? Nothing much – just being taken for fools by the people who rule us.
Labour as well as several Tories are calling for his resignation.
Boris Johnson's Apology wrote:]"]Boris Johnson statement: PM's apology over Downing Street party, in full
Plus: The full, fiery exchange between Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer as Labour leader calls for the PM's head
Boris Johnson has apologised for attending a "bring your own booze" gathering in the garden of No 10 during England's first lockdown as he battled to save his premiership.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the public "rage" over the incident but insisted he thought it could have been technically within the rules, confirming for the first time he had attended.
Standing opposite him at Prime Minister's Questions, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer branded him the "man with no shame", and echoed calls around the chamber calling for the Tory party leader to resign.
Here is the Prime Minister's apology in full:
Mr Speaker, I want to apologise.
I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.
I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.
And I know the rage they feel with me or with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.
And I must take responsibility.
Number 10 is a big department with the garden as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.
And when I went into that garden, just after six on the 20th of May, 202, to thank groups and staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later, to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
But Mr Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.
I should have found some other way to thank them.
And I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.
People who suffered terribly, people who are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.
And all I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.
What followed was a fiery exchange between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, during which the Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to interject a number of times.
Sir Keir Starmer
Well, there we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who's run out of road.
His defence, that he didn't realise he was at a party, is so ridiculous that it's actually offensive to the British public.
He's finally been forced to admit what everyone knew that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street.
Is he now going to do but decent thing and resign?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle
(After loud cheers and jeers and a shout of "Matt Hancock went") I think somebody will be going for an early cup of tea as well.
Can I just say the question's been asked. I want to know the answer. Your constituents want to know the answer - and I don't need any extra help either - so please, Prime Minister.
Well, Mr Speaker, I appreciate the point that he's making about the event that I attended.
I want to I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and Mr Speaker, I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening.
Mr Speaker, as I said, and I take responsibility and I apologise, Mr. Speaker, but as for as for his his political point, I don't think that he should preempt the outcome of the inquiry.
He will have he will have a further opportunity, Mr Speaker, I hope to question me as soon as possible.
Sir Keir Starmer
Well, that apology was pretty worthless wasn't it?
Let me tell him why this matters. Yesterday, in this chamber, honourable members told heart wrenching stories about the sacrifices people across the country were making.
This House and the whole country were moved by the honourable member for Strangford as he talked about his mother-in-law dying alone.
He was following the rules whilst the Prime Minister was parting in Downing Street.
Is the prime minister really so contemptuous of the British public that he thinks he could just ride this out?
Mr Speaker, I heard the testimony of the honourable member opposite and I echo his his sentiments it was it was deeply moving.
Nobody who heard that could fail to have been moved.
And I know that people up and down the country have made huge sacrifices throughout this pandemic, Mr Speaker, and I understand the anger the rage that they feel at the thought that the people in Downing Street we're not following those rules.
I regret the way the event I have described was handled.
I bitterly regret it and wish that we could have done things differently than I have and will continue to apologise for what we did.
But, Mr Speaker, he must wait for the inquiry which will report as soon as possible.
Sir Keir Starmer
Mr Speaker, when the Prime Minister's former health secretary broke the rules, he resigned, and the Prime Minister said he was right to do so.
When the Prime Minister's spokesperson laughed about the rules being broken, she resigned, and the Prime Minister accepted that resignation.
Why does the Prime Minister still think that the rules don't apply to him?
Mr Speaker, that's not what I've said, and I understand the point that he that he makes.
As I've said, Mr Speaker, I regret the way things happened on the evening in question, and I apologise, but if I may say to him, I do think it would be better if he waited until the full conclusion of the inquiry, until the full facts were brought before this House, Mr Speaker, and he will then have an opportunity to put his points again.
Sir Keir Starmer
This just isn't working, Prime Minister.
Everyone could see what happened.
It started with reports of boozy parties in Downing Street during lockdown, the Prime Minister pretended that had been assured there were no parties.
How that fits with his defence now, I do not know.
Then the video landed, blowing the Prime Minister's first defence out of the water.
So then he pretended he pretended he was sickened and furious about the parties.
Now it turns out, he was at the parties all along.
Can't the Prime Minister see why the British public thinks he's lying through his teeth?
(Guffaws and interjection from speaker)
Mr Speaker, it's up to the right honourable gentleman to choose how he conducts himself in this place. He is wrong.
I say to him that he's wrong. He's wrong in what he said. He said what said, he is wrong in what you said and is wrong in several key respects.
But Mr Speaker that does not detract from the the basic point that I want to make today, which is I accept that we should have done things differently on that evening.
As I as I said to the house, I believe that the events in question were within the guidance and were within the rules and that was certainly the assumption on which I operated but can I say to him as a speaker that he should wait, before he jumps to conclusions, because a lawyer should respect the inquiry.
I hope that he will wait until the facts are established and brought to this House.
Sir Keir Starmer
Mr Speaker, so we've got the Prime Minister attending Downing Street parties - a clear breach of the rules.
We've got the Prime Minister putting for this series of ridiculous denials, which he knows are untrue - a clear breach of the ministerial code.
That code says ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation.
The party's over, Prime Minister.
The only question is will the British public kick him out? Will his party kick him out? Or will he do the decent thing and resign?
Mr Speaker, I just want to repeat that I think the right honourable gentleman - I know that is his objective and he's paid to try to remove me from office and I appreciate that and I accept that.
But may I humbly suggest to him that he should he should wait until the inquiry has concluded.
He should study it for himself. And I will certainly respond as appropriate. And I hope that he does. But in the meantime. yes, Mr Speaker, I certainly wish that things had happened differently on the evening of May the 20th, Mr Speaker.
And I apologise for all the misjudgments that have been made for which I take, Mr Speaker, full responsibility
Sir Keir Starmer
Prime Minister's a man without shame.
The public want answers to their questions. Hannah Brady's his father Sean was just 55 when he lost his life to Covid.
He was a fit and healthy key worker.
I spoke to Hannah last night, Prime Minister.
Her father died just days before the drinks trolley was being wheeled through Downing Street.
And last year, had met the prime minister in the Downing Street garden.
She looked the Prime Minister in the eye and told him of her loss.
The Prime Minister told Hannah he had done everything he could to protect her dad.
Looking back, what Hannah told me last night was this - she realises that the Prime Minister had partied in that same garden the very day her dad's death certificate was signed.
What Hannah wants to know is this - does the Prime Minister understand why it makes her feel sick to think about the way that he's behaved?
Mr Speaker, I sympathise deeply with Hannah, with people who have suffered up or down in this country during the pandemic and I repeat that I wish things had been done differently on that evening, Mr Speaker.
And I repeat my apology for all the misjudgments that may have been made that were made on my watch in Number 10 and across Government but I want to reassure the people of this country including Hannah and and her family, that Mr Speaker, we have been working to do everything we can to protect her and her family.
And it is thanks to the efforts of this Government that we have the most tested population in Europe. 1.25million tests being conducted every day.
We've been working to ensure that this population, our country has the most antivirals of any country in Europe.
And Mr Speaker, it's because of the efforts of the Government, officials and staff up and down Whitehall that we've driven the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, one of the fastest in the world.
And that is the reason, Mr Speaker that we now have one of the most open economies if not the most open economy in Europe, and one of the fastest growing economy in the G7.
Mr Speaker, whatever the mistakes that have been made on my watch, for which I apologise and fully acknowledge - that is the work, Mr Speaker, that has been going on in number 10 Downing Street.
...take your common sense with you, and leave your prejudices behind...