As the met concludes the investigation they had to be pressured into a vast portion of the country is left asking ourselves: did the met police perform the coverup many of us suspected- and are we now stuck with a dead cat for a prime minister?
In November 2021 when news first broke of parties in Downing Street, there were many amongst our number in the UK who were less surprised that our government ministers would flout vital safety law than shocked it took so long for another scandal to surface.
At the time huge interest was piled onto those who were in the know: Pippa Crerar’s journalistic moxxie turned up evidence that Allegra Stratton, who had already been struggling as the tories’ answer to the UK press secretary in the form of Jen Psaki, had openly joked about the fact that the rules had been thrown off at the height of lockdown, giggling with her colleagues about cheese, wine and impropriety. The video showed what could charitably be referred to as distain for the rules as tory staffers laughed about ignoring safety guidance, especially in the line “and it was not socially distanced”. We wouldn’t have long to get used to Stratton’s face smirking across our screens before a new, HD Stratton video emerged: her resignation, tears running freely outside her house as she assured a raging public that she would “regret her actions for the rest of her life”. But what actions was Stratton referring to: she had merely joked about the rules being discarded by colleagues?
So naturally came the next line of questioning: if the woman who joked about laws being broken at the archaic heart of british democracy was to go- who else would? What would the punishment for this rule breaking behaviour be?
Cut dramatically to bombshell after bombshell: there were MULTIPLE parties! Sunak was at one! And it didn’t take long before the revelation we all waited for: Boris Johnson, prime minister was in attendance at not just one- but several- of these events.
Johnson, for his part had fallen on his usual habit of trying to lie his way out of trouble: after all, he lied his way into Downing Street on the promise of getting brexit done (how is that going, Prime Minister- fixed the border yet?). But the collective weight of grief, anger and appetite for truth (mixed as always with our obsession with scandal) meant the british public would not, as we have been told by a multitude of Johnsons’ staffers, “move on”. At first Johnson denied parties had taken place at all, the idea was ludicrous! Then he gravely assured us he was as furious as we were at the accusations- how very dare his silly staffers hold parties in his residence! Then came the denials that he attended any events himself- then photos of him at said events rolled in, to which he responded that it was not a party, it was a work event- then photographic evidence of him reclining with multiple staffers and his wife and the decorator for his flat appeared- was this a work event, with people who weren’t staff there? Well no, he said, it was a party- but he didn’t know it was a party you see, how could he, for the prime minister who flew from a meeting about Putin’s use of a deadly toxin on home soil to a KGB agent’s son’s party couldn’t possibly know what a party looks like- then when emails confirmed he did know it was a party the tact changed again- yes it was a party, he did know it was a party but he didn’t know parties were against the rules but he was very sorry and he would commission a report into it all so we could see the extent which our democracy was being mocked.
When the Gray report was inches from our outstretched fingertips suddenly the met police leapt into action- despite earlier stating they did not investigate retrospective breaches and predictably the line shifted from “just wait for the Sue Gray report” to “just wait for the conclusion of the met police investigation”. Wait, wait ,wait they said, forgetting it seems that while they threw back cheese and wine and laughed at podiums we had lost two years of our lives to isolation and now we were being asked to wait for justice to be served to those who couldn’t adhere to the same rules we had. Now the Gray report remains the only bastion of hope for holding the government to account – but therein lays the flaw that exposes the deepest issues we have with forcing this government to account for its wrongdoings: you cannot force someone to account for something they don’t feel regret over.
Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, the staffers- nobody feels remorse for their actions: they feel irked that they were exposed and embarrassed, angry that they had to divert resources away from what they actually care about to try and placate what they see as a sea of baying ingorami and confused that they should have to defend their actions. The line will go that “nobody died so who cares”. We are force fed lines about cake and Prosecco and how everyone just wants to be angry and offended. But not one amongst those who helped topple the respectability of british politics understands the root issue.
We- the people- were expected to follow these rules, asked to do as we were told, requested to do what was right, moral, safe- because at the same time as Johnson was quaffing wine and discussing the robustness of cheese with his colleagues, people were sat on the floor of their homes, desperately depressed and alone, mourning people whose chests were filling up with liquid as they drowned- funerals were held with barely any attendees. People were driven to suicide by trying to do the right thing and protect others. Mothers lost sons, sons lost fathers, fathers lost brothers. A million new disabled people, damaged in one or more ways by infection with a dangerous virus, many- most- of whom tried their best to avoid catching the coronavirus. We were told Johnson was only at one event for nine minutes- nine minutes I would have loved to have spent with my newly widowed Dad, or one of my two sisters as we all struggled to cope with the loss of my mother.
The breaking of rules was a big issue because even one slip up, one forgotten mask, one unwashed hand could have meant further spread of the virus that has stolen two years of our life and continues to kill hundreds of our countryfolk a week. Some of us worked hard for two years to ensure we stuck as best we could to the rules laid down by the Johnson government and to see his open flippancy in defying those rules then to watch the met gently chuck Johnson on the chin, employing the notion that Johnson cannot be punished for every event because they happened at his home so he “had” to be there is not our own chuck but a slap to the face.
The Johnson government has desperately tried to amend what it sees as the flaws of British society- wilful disregard and distrust for the office of prime minister- but who can respect a prime minister who drags us, still connected at the artery of Ireland, from the EU and watches us bleed whilst blaming them for the damage- who can respect a prime minister who “shook hands with” covid patients even as the deadliness of the virus was being questioned, the man who enforced harsh rules and penalties on everyone else but never for one moment believed he would adhere to them himself – the man who took away protest, made it harder to vote- the man who has utterly prostrated himself at the altar of ego, heedless of the cost of his own lies even as we paid the price.
Boris Johnson is, I hope, the worst prime minister the UK will ever see. The question now is not is he the worst: it is how long will he remain in post, and until Johnson realises that his desperation for validation will not be sated by a country sick to the back teeth of his embarrassing actions, he will continue to drag us further into the cut de sac of fruitlessness that his worse than lacklustre tenure has provided so far: so to the tories who surround Johnson and seek to protect themselves as much as he, remember this: your days are numbered and you are tarnishing yourselves every moment you remain his loyal lapdog. History is written by the victors and you lose every day you stand by his side. Either relinquish your white-knuckled hold on the hackles of the man who has destroyed you or go down in history as an enabler of the worst prime minister in the history of the United Kingdom.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.