Helen MacNamara, who is giving evidence to the Covid Inquiry today, was the Government ethics chief who was at the heart of a very unethical lockdown-busting party at the height of the pandemic. The Mail has more.
The mother-of-four was in charge of making sure the Government upheld the highest standards of behaviour while the country was reeling from the privations of the pandemic in June 2020.
But Ms. MacNamara played a central role in a drunken party that saw staff vomiting and fighting in government buildings – even bringing along a karaoke machine to liven things up.
At the time Brits were banned from meeting together indoors as the virus swept the nation.
Sue Gray’s 2022 report into rule-breaking at the heart of Government revealed a bacchanalian event, writing: “The event lasted for a number of hours. There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals.”
Ms. MacNamara was Director General for Propriety and Ethics at the Cabinet office before becoming Deputy Cabinet Secretary, the second most senior civil servant in the country.
She was among the first people to be fined by the Metropolitan Police as part of its probe into Downing Street. She later apologised for her behaviour, saying it had been an “error in judgement”.
Today she told the inquiry rules were being broken on a daily basis just in the conduct of Government business.
“I definitely wasn’t partying in Number 10, I was either at work or at home,” she said.
“I think that acknowledging what had happened, acknowledging that some of it was a symptom of the situation, being honest about the fact that – actually, I would find it hard to pick one day when the regulations were followed properly inside that building.”
She said there was “one meeting where we absolutely adhered to the guidance to the letter” – the Cabinet meeting – “and everybody moaned about it and tried to change repeatedly”.
“So, I know how exceptional it was to really, really, really properly follow the guidance. I think that, in retrospect, obviously, all sorts of things were wrong.”
All sorts of things. Like the guidance, for instance, which even those who made it thought was unworkable and unencessary.
The Gray report outlined details of a “raucous” party involving “excessive alcohol consumption”, which began at 7.40pm on June 18th and continued until 3.13am the following day. The party took place at a time when all indoor gatherings were banned and mourners were prevented from singing hymns at funerals in an effort to ‘stop the spread’.
Worth reading in full.