The Tory parties

How the Tories partied away for seven days whilst 2,602 people in England died of COVID-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street. Photo by PA.

Derry Salter

Lockdown for many has been a time of loneliness, solitude – but most importantly self-sacrifice to save our friends and family and ease the pressure on the NHS. However, lockdown for the Conservative Party and their cronies seems to have been one big party.

Last month, the Daily Mirror unravelled the Conservative party’s web of lies when they released a photo of an apparent Christmas party at the Conservative Campaign HQ taken 14th December 2020. On that day in England, 412 people died of COVID-19. The “raucous” party, hosted by the campaign for former London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, saw twenty-four attendees mingle in Christmas jumpers and party hats. When the photo came to light, Bailey, the former chair of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, stood down from his role, profusely apologising. Cabinet Minister Grant Shapps has said that the rest of the party-goers have faced disciplinary actions, but failed to publicise the extent of the actions: perhaps no helping of Camembert at the next Christmas party?

We must remember that at the time of the decadent December parties, England was in a strict lockdown. London itself was following Tier 4 restrictions, prohibiting the indoor social mixing of different households. With schools shut through most of 2020, you’d think the Department of Education had an easy year. But their hard-work didn’t go unnoticed by the Tories, and the department threw a drinking gathering to celebrate their staff’s efforts on 10th December. On that day, 378 people in England died of COVID-19.

Many people at this time turned to Zoom – I for one became a big fan of a Zoom quiz. Alas, this simplistic but safe way of socialisation was not for everyone. On 15th December, Johnson sat next to two colleagues decked out in Christmas jumpers inside Number 10 to partake in Christmas quiz. On that day, 388 people in England died of COVID-19. Just three days later, the infamous Downing Street Christmas party took place, filled with food, drinks and games. On that day, 433 people in England died of COVID-19. It really does seem like it is one rule for us and another rule for them.

One month prior, Dominic Cummings resigned as Chief Adviser for his inability to follow lockdown rules. Merely hours later, the Johnson family hosted a get-together in their flat – which Carrie has obviously denied. On that day, 358 people in England died of COVID-19.

A fortnight later and the PM had his party hat back on, making a speech at his former aide, Cleo Watson’s leaving drinks. On that day, 364 people in England died of COVID-19. Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper referred to the parties as “another punch to the stomach to everyone who followed the rules”. Clearly, she forgot that it is one rule for us, and another rule for them.

In response to the gatherings, Johnson apologised and asked civil servant Simon Case to lead an inquiry into the parties. Soon after, Case stepped down after it emerged he held a party of his own in the same time frame. As this scandal continued to erupt, The Guardian published a photo of Johnson, his wife and their aides dining on cheese and wine in Number 10’s garden in May 2020. At that moment in time, social distancing rules stated that individuals must meet only one other person outside and at a distance of two metres. On that day, 269 people in England died of COVID-19. At 5pm on the day in question, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that people shouldn’t take risks in the nice weather and keep an eye on their families. Hancock has since denied all involvement in the illegal gathering, but as a married man caught having an affair whilst breaking social distancing rules, his moral authority is laughable. Again – I forget: one rule for us, another rule for them.

Now, let’s reflect on how the rest of the UK spent their Christmas. My hometown was in Tier 3, so although we remained social distanced, at least I could see my grandparents. We sat down on different tables in our dining room, ate our dinner, opened our presents, then said goodbye. How is this fair? How could the Tories party away while the rest of the country stayed locked inside? People said goodbye to their dying love ones over video call – something our PM could not even do for a quiz.

A poll by The Sunday Times shows that these parties have had a big hit on the Conservatives’ popularity, suggesting that Labour would currently win a general election with a 26-seat majority. This comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded Johnson “dishonest” and called out his lies concerning the lockdown-breaking parties. The Conservative party themselves are turning on their flailing leader, with 100 Tory MPs voting against Johnson’s COVID pass measures only last week.

With Omicron looming over the UK, the continuous mishaps of the Tories aren’t just another lie or betrayal: they are dangerous. Any future restrictions will most likely be ignored. If the PM can’t follow his own rules, why should the rest of England? This dangerous incompetence continues to threaten our public health and the NHS’s ability to combat the pandemic.

Unreserved apologies may be enough for the friends of the Tories – but for normal law-abiding citizens like us, it is not. On the same day as the Conservative Christmas party, three members of the public broke lockdown rules and attended an “unlawful gathering”. The difference between the outcomes is only one letter: they were fined, our PM was fine. During the seven days that the known Tory parties took place, 2,602 people in England died of COVID-19.  

Whilst the PM’s closest friends and aides sip their wine and laugh at the public’s stupidity from the safety of Number 10, a deadly surge of COVID-19 may yet sweep the nation. The utter hypocrisy, disrespect and dishonesty of Boris Johnson is nothing new; his homophobic, sexist, racist comments have always been on record for all to see, however, the British public are finally starting to see the PM for who he really is.