Blog: Pandemic Parties

It has been nearly two years now. Two years that, frankly, have been strange and quite disorientating; to the extent that as we go into 2022 I often find it hard to discern what happened when… the time since March 2020 just feels like one long period that hasn’t been properly punctuated by the usual ebb and flow of life… to the extent that it usually is at any rate.

Sure there have been some standout moments, but it is difficult to really work through what has happened… the pandemic still feels unresolved, and so does life. These feelings have come to the fore again, for me at least, with the drip drip of the 10 Downing Street party revelations that feel ongoing (for context, at the time of writing, we are at the revelation of parties before Prince Phillip’s funeral). Each disclosure takes me back to that point in time, and makes me think afresh about what was happening in my life then. I have to say that this has made me increasingly angry and upset, and I wanted to know why.

Before I go any further, however, full disclosure here. I am not a fan of the Tory party, and even less a fan of Boris Johnson. He is the sort of man who I viscerally detest, I think because he has that confidence and charisma that has enabled him to sail through life seemingly not giving two fucks about anybody or any situation that he might meet on the way. On the other hand I still dwell on things I said to someone thirty or forty years ago on the off chance that they might still remember and feel less of me. Johnson is that person who always seems to get away with murder by doing things and being the sort of person that I would not dare to be… my psychological make up despises him for it and something deep inside me wants him to get his comeuppance, along with those who speak up for him and protect him.

I think that those same characteristics means that Johnson cannot understand why many people, including many decent people who have voted for him, are so upset about what has emerged over the last few weeks. Characteristics that mean that he does not really believe that he has done anything wrong.

Now I have been very fortunate during this pandemic… I have not lost anyone, nor has anyone close to me got ill. My parents are long dead so I have not had to negotiate the awful situation of having loved ones in care homes, and having a family has meant that I have not had to be alone for months on end… sure the home-schooling was not ideal, but nothing was unbearable.

However, listening to other people’s stories over the last month or so, when the vast majority of us were obeying the rules and ’doing the right thing’, has been a very moving and humbling experience… an experience which has also made me more angry and more resentful of having people in charge of our country who so obviously seem to not care. This has somehow taken me beyond my previous feelings about Johnson and the Tories… it’s no longer about politics really, but common decency and a fundamental lack of fairness that I think should be a baseline for anyone to expect.

So while I am certainly no royalist I was, and continue to be, moved by the photo of the Queen sitting totally alone in St George’s Chapel in Windsor mourning her husband of many decades. It somehow represented what many people have been through and somehow demonstrated dignity, stoicism and, because of her position, true leadership… she did not appear to have bent the rules when, in truth, she probably could. At that moment she felt like one of us.

However, today as I write this, it is not so much the bacchanalian parties that took place the night before this picture was taken that really raised my levels of anger and upset, but a call made to James O’Brien on LBC radio… which I came across on Twitter. The caller worked in a crematorium, and his job was to stand on the door during lockdown and make sure that only the regulation number of people attended a funeral… he spoke about how he would have to turn away people who were very upset and could not say goodbye to their loved ones. With his voice breaking up he told O’Brien that he felt an idiot… because he so strictly adhered to the rules (as we nearly all did). He wished he could have let a few more grieving people into funerals knowing that parties were going on at the centre of government… parties being held by the very people who made the rules that he was sticking to.

I listened to this with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt so sad for him… so sad for all the people whose stories I had heard over the last month or so. For those who has suffered so much because they had obeyed the rules too and ’done the right thing’. And that’s the thing… why this goes beyond any regular political opposition… because we all have our own individual lockdown stories… we were all going out of our way to keep to the rules, even erring on the side of caution. So should we all feel like idiots, like the man on the radio did? Perhaps, but not really is my rather equivocal answer. Yes we did stick to the rules while those in Downing Street seemingly were not, but we did so for the best possible reasons… and for many people it was bloody hard.

Johnson and his cronies like to make war analogies, they have repeatedly done so during the pandemic… as if fighting a military campaign against this virus. But actually they are the last ones to have shown anything approaching the ’blitz spirit’… they have shown themselves to be unfit to lead us… they fail to understand the real hardships that people have gone through because, Johnson at least, lacks the empathy to understand the hurt that he causes and that, I hope, will ultimately lead to his downfall. Then it will be time to party.

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