SARAH VINE: Rage doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about No.10’s damn stupidity
Sometimes people do things that are so unutterably stupid, so determinedly idiotic, so spectacularly self-sabotaging and counterproductive one is lost for words.
When all you can do is stare, open-mouthed and aghast, at the catastrophe unfolding in front of you.
This is precisely how I feel about this latest ‘partygate’ revelation, an email – there it is, in black and white – from Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting No 10 staff to a booze-up in the grounds of Downing Street on May 20, 2020.
It makes me want to bang my entire head against the nearest wall in fury and frustration. And, frankly, bang all their stupid heads together while I’m at it.
On a visit to his constituency today, Boris Johnson ducked questions about whether he attended the May 20 garden party, merely insisting it was a matter for Sue Gray, the senior official leading an investigation into allegations of lockdown-busting parties across Whitehall
I don’t need to point out what kind of a state the country was in at the time. We all know, we all remember.
Families divided, businesses on the brink of collapse, children stuck at home, parents juggling work and home-schooling, the elderly locked up in care homes.
There was a kind of insanity in the air, brought about by fear and worry and not knowing what was going to happen next.
I remember a woman in Waitrose screaming at me because I accidentally got too close to her while reaching for some tomatoes.
A policeman in the park came up to me while I rested for a few moments on a bench and bellowed into my ear with his megaphone that if I didn’t get up I could be arrested.
Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020, five days before the email was sent. At the time, only two people were allowed to socialise outside while at least two metres apart under national Covid curbs
My friend, whose mother died of Covid, was not allowed to see her after she had passed away. His own beloved mother.
An experience shared by countless grieving families. Like many others, he was distraught, inconsolable.
But he still obeyed the rules. We all did.
Rage doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel when I realise that, while all our rights were being stripped away, while people were losing their jobs and sanity, staff at No10 were having cosy little get-togethers ‘to make the most of the lovely weather’.
But it’s not just the injustice of it, the sheer hypocrisy, that makes my blood boil.
It’s the damn stupidity and short-sightedness. It’s the fact that, with one unnecessary act of madness, they have undermined the entire government’s authority.
Look. I spent half my life in lockdown listening to Matt Hancock bellowing down the telephone to my now ex-husband, explaining why if the Government didn’t lock everyone up the bodies would be piling up in the streets.
Every time I walked past his study door I would catch snippets of the Prime Minister talking to the Cabinet via Zoom, working like a dog – and I do mean like a dog – to get the country out of the crisis created by Covid.
They barely slept, they agonised over every decision. The Prime Minister himself practically died, and yet he soldiered on. They all did. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, non-stop.
An email leaked to ITV News shows the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 staff to bring their own drinks to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20, 2020 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’
I would never divulge details or betray confidences (my name is not Dominic Cummings); but one thing I can absolutely say with certainty, hand on heart is this: the Prime Minister and the whole of Government, from ministers to mandarins, worked tirelessly during those months.
That is why I’m so angry. Because they’ve gone and thrown it all away.
All that hard work, all that drive and dedication, all that success in rolling out a world-beating vaccine programme.
It’s all in danger of being swept away by the wave of righteous public anger that is now engulfing them.
No one could be more sympathetic to the impossible situation they faced, no one could be more understanding of the difficulties than I. And yet even I can see no justification whatsoever for this behaviour.
Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Talk about handing the opposition a baseball bat to beat them to death with.
And all for what? A few glasses of warm white wine and some sodding ‘nibbles’.
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