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