Downing Street

Parties at Number 10 Suggest Boris and His Team Thought Covid Restrictions Were Pointless. So Why Did They Impose Them?

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about the recent spate of revelations about Downing Street parties, pointing out that it isn’t just Tory politicians and their staff who’ve been ignoring the Covid restrictions.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t just Conservative politicians and their senior aides who ignored the restrictions they expected the rest of us to comply with.

A photograph emerged last night of Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition, drinking a beer with Labour staff in a constituency office in Durham when Tier 2 measures were in place. Given that Starmer has consistently called for even tougher Covid restrictions in England – much like those imposed by Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader – this is another example of flagrant hypocrisy.

Mind you, Drakeford himself is no angel. In November of last year he was photographed dancing in a crowded room at a Diwali celebration without a mask, breaking his government’s own rules making them compulsory in all indoor spaces.

And let’s not forget Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London. In October, he berated Boris for not following Drakeford’s lead and imposing a mask mandate and condemned those who refused to voluntarily wear face coverings as ‘selfish’. A few days later he was photographed at a crowded party with Liverpool footballer Mo Salah with no masks in sight.

This begs the question: Why have all these advocates of lockdowns and related restrictions been flagrantly ignoring the rules?

It’s not a straightforward example of ‘do as I say, not what I do’ – something we’ve grown used to from the political class – because these leaders supposedly had a vested interest in following their own rules. After all, weren’t they worried about catching the virus? They told us these measures were for our own protection.

The only explanation I can think of is that they knew some of these rules were pointless. We now know that many of the non-pharmaceutical interventions governments made around the world to try to control successive waves of Covid infections made little or no impact on the overall ebb and flow of each variant. Just look at Sweden, which didn’t impose a lockdown in 2020 and had one of the lowest excess death rates in Europe that year.

More recently, Boris himself proved the doom-mongers of Sage wrong when he ignored their apocalyptic predictions of what would happen if he didn’t impose tighter restrictions – 5,000 deaths a day, said Professor Lockdown. The Omicron variant, like the previous ones, has proved self-limiting and begun to fade without the Government doing much at all.

But this begs another question: If they knew the rules were pointless, why did these political panjandrums advocate for them in the first place? My conspiracy-minded friends will say it’s because they were doing the bidding of an international cabal of rich, powerful men who had a vested interest in locking everyone down, whether because they would benefit financially – hello, Jeff Bezos – or because it helped advance their sinister political agenda known as ‘the Great Reset’. But I think the truth is less exciting.

I believe the reason the Government imposed three lockdowns – and countless restrictions in between – was because it calculated it was better to be seen to be doing something to try to suppress the virus rather than just ‘letting it rip’. Boris must have known over 100,000 Britons would likely die as a result of the pandemic and there was little he could do about that, but at least it would be harder for his political opponents to hang those deaths around his neck if he locked us all in our homes. And the reason his opponents criticised him for not going even further is because they hoped to do precisely that.

The one good thing to emerge from these scandals is that it will make it harder for the political class to play the public for fools again. If senior politicians ever impose another plethora of pointless, incomprehensible restrictions – whether Tory or Labour – I hope we’ll all pay about as much attention to them as they do.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office in December 2020 for Kate Josephs, head of the Government unit responsible for drawing up Covid restrictions. The Telegraph has more.

Two More Downing Street Parties Come to Light

The Telegraph has an exclusive: Two leaving events for No 10 staff were held on eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, at which Her Majesty was forced to grieve alone due to Covid rules.

Downing Street staff drank alcohol into the early hours at two leaving events the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral, The Telegraph can reveal.

On the evening of Friday April 16 2021, Britain was in a period of public mourning. Union flags on Government buildings across Westminster hung at half mast to mark the passing of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the previous week.

With the country in step two of a strict lockdown roadmap, which barred indoor mixing, mourners were told not to leave flowers due to the Covid threat. A book of condolence was set up online to “reduce the risk of transmission” from physical signings.

In a private chapel in Windsor Castle the Prince’s coffin lay overnight. The next day the Queen, her face covered by a black mask, would say farewell to her husband of 73 years. With social distancing rules in force, she sat alone.

The atmosphere in Downing Street that Friday evening, however, was quite different. Advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events to mark the departure of two colleagues.

One was James Slack, Mr Johnson’s director of communications. He had served two Tory prime ministers, a rare carry-over from the Theresa May days, but was leaving after four years to become deputy editor at The Sun newspaper. The other was one of Mr Johnson’s personal photographers.

Eye-witnesses have talked to The Telegraph about what happened. It is alleged that excessive alcohol was drunk, while at points, guests danced. The gatherings stretched late into the night – well beyond midnight, according to one source.

They were, according to one who was there, undeniably parties.

Worth reading in full.

Will this be the final nail in Boris’s coffin? He wasn’t actually present at either of these parties – he’d already left for Chequers – but 30 members of your staff attending a party the day before Prince Philip’s funeral isn’t a good look, with the Queen having to mourn alone thanks to the Tier 2 restrictions. (This was in April, 2021.)

I was fairly bullish about Boris’s survival prospects, but less so now. How many more of these events are going to come to light? Conservative MPs will be worrying that the longer he remains in office, and the more revelations there are about No 10 rule-breaking, the more toxic the Party’s brand will become.

Secret Santa-Gate: Health Secretary Cancels All Media Interviews as the Prime Minister Faces Police Probe Over Downing Street Party

Sajid Javid today cancelled all his TV and radio interviews after a video emerged of Boris Johnson’s officials joking about a lockdown-busting Christmas party on December 22nd, 2020 when thousands were unable to visit or say goodbye to loved-ones and millions more obeyed the rules banning social gatherings. MailOnline has more about this burgeoning scandal.

Met Police detectives will consider launching an investigation over the leaked film showing the Prime Minister’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton giggling and laughing as she is asked about the event during a mock media conference.

This morning the Health Secretary pulled out of a round of key broadcast interviews to promote the booster campaign following the emergence of leaked footage showing Government aides joking about a festive gathering last year. BBC Breakfast took the extraordinary step of empty-chairing Mr Javid this morning as vaccines minister Maggie Throup also pulled out of her planned round of regional television interviews.

Downing Street is in crisis over the footage of Miss Stratton filmed last December 22nd – four days after the alleged ‘boozy’ party and when London was under strict Tier 3 coronavirus curbs. The revelation follows a week of tortured denials from No 10 over allegations that dozens of staff exchanged ‘secret Santa’ gifts and drank past midnight at an event said to have party games.

It came as new plans for Britons to work from home and for offices to be closed are being drawn up by the Government to curb a surge in Omicron variant case numbers over the festive period – but Tory MPs admitted the ‘indefensible’ and ‘catastrophic’ video could mean the public will resist or ignore more restrictions because of a lack of ‘moral authority’ in No 10.

Some backbenchers have even suggested that Boris Johnson’s could be forced to resign unless he ‘holds his hands up’ because of the video, which calls into question his insistence that all the rules had been followed at the time.

One said of Mr Johnson’s leadership: “I’m tired of it. He has to go. Clean sweep. It’s unsustainable.” Another said: “It confirms my suspicion of the sheer arrogance and hypocrisy of those orchestrating lockdown measures.”

Worth reading in full.

For lockdown sceptics, this scandal is manna from heaven because it makes it politically more difficult for the Government to impose a Christmas lockdown.