What else

IssueFebruary - March 2022
Comment by Rebecca Elson-Watkins

I’m getting to the point where my thoughts on Boris Johnson’s government are usually expressed in a series of unintelligible, exasperated groans. But for you, PN readers, I will attempt to put my rage, my contempt and my disgust into words.

On 20 May 2020, as the country was in the depths of the first kockdown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his cohort, including his wife and his newborn son, were ‘making the most of the lovely weather’ with cheese and wine in the Downing Street garden.

COVID regulations at the time were clear – two people could meet at a time, outside in a public space.

Boris’s aide invited 100 people to ‘bring a bottle’ to the Downing Street garden.

On 20 May 2020, 363 people in the UK lost their lives to COVID-19. 363 families were robbed of precious final moments with loved ones. 363 people died without someone they loved at their side. We don’t know how many lives were changed forever by those 363 deaths.

On 20 May 2020, most of us, except key-workers, sat indoors, thankful for our books, internet connections, streaming services and video calls, if we had them. The less tech-savvy, and the poorest, suffered an unparallelled level of disconnection from other human beings.

My darling grandfather was among them, his human contact reduced to phone calls and waving to the neighbour. By March of the next year, he would lose the will to live, one of those uncounted victims of the pandemic, killed not by the virus but by the social side-effects of the virus.

On 20 May 2020, I was ‘hard shielding’. I hadn’t left the house since 20 March, and I would not leave it until August.

My difficult-to-control asthma puts me at extremely high risk of death or severe illness from any infection that attacks the lungs.

This means I did not take the hour-a-day exercise outside that so many enjoyed, the risks of infection being simply too high.

Sitting on my balcony was the only option I had to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ and I must recognise that I am extremely privileged to have that outdoor space.

It was not long since I had had to sit my then-18-year-old daughter down and talk to her about how to ensure that she wasn’t evicted from our council property if I died during the pandemic. Let’s just say we have had many conversations I treasure the memory of, but that is not one of them.

To know that, while we sheltered and shielded and did our best to get through this absolutely harrowing time, our so-called leaders partied away.… I’m not sure there is a word in the English language with the gravitas necessary to convey the sheer audacity, and pomposity, demonstrated, consistently, by Boris Johnson and his government during a time when we needed leadership by example. To quote Kier Starmer MP, we have had ‘the worst possible leader, at the worst possible time.’

There is no leadership here, not in Boris’ Britain. A few days ago, on 16 January, the Guardian reported that at least 14 parties, leaving dos and quizzes had happened at Downing Street and other Whitehall offices between the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020, and April 2021.

There were also allegations of a drinks fridge being installed in the Downing Street ground floor press office for ‘wine-time Fridays’. The mind boggles.

This is our democratically-elected government?

As the ITV news anchor declared, the night they broke the now-infamous Allegra Stratton video: ‘they’re laughing at us’.

I wish, oh how I wish I could disagree with that statement. How I wish that we had someone with integrity, someone with the foresight to invest in public services and our NHS, someone who spoke the occasional word I could actually believe, in Downing Street at this time of national and global tragedy.

Instead, we have a man who has lied almost at the Trumpian level.

Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, asked at prime minister’s questions on 12 January: ‘We all know the prime minister was sacked from two previous jobs for lying, so can he explain to the house why he believes that the great office of prime minister can be held to a lower standard than those previous jobs he was sacked from?’

I believe I am far from alone in echoing that question.

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