It has almost been two years since Covid 19 became the most powerful and dominant factor in our daily lives. Today, the worldwide death rate counts 5.6 million victims, tomorrow the number will be even higher. No country has been spared their fair share of victims and still, after two years, the virus continues to turn the world into chaos. Meanwhile, politicians from all over the world have pledged to their citizens mainly one message- to keep distance from each other. The UK alone accounts for 150.000 deaths. And, of course, prime minister Boris Johnson was among those politicians who tried to protect his country by introducing more than just one lockdown. Strangely enough, recent police investigations as well as findings of senior cabinet office employee Sue Gray suggest that Boris Johnson did not think these rules applied to himself or any of his fellow colleagues.
The Lockdown Birthday
One thing many of us experienced as especially challenging was celebrating our birthdays in lockdown, isolated and away from our friends. But most of us were willing to wait for our next birthdays -maybe in 2022?- to celebrate again, willing to sacrifice our party lives for the greater good. And, at least to my understanding, if there’s anyone who should act in the interest of the public, in this case to prevent a deadly disease from infiltrating the planet, it should be politicians, right? Well, Boris Johnson seems to believe in a different definition of responsibilities and appropriate behaviour than me. His birthday on June 19, 2020 took place in the Cabinet room with up to 30 guests who sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the prime minister – a heart-warming image but weren’t we just discussing the surge of a global pandemic? At that time UK rules strictly forbade gatherings of more than two people inside – unless necessary for important work purposes. Ironically enough, three months prior to said incident, Johnson had thanked a seven-year-old girl via twitter for cancelling her birthday party, saying she was “setting a great example”. An example he chose not to follow.
How Many Parties Are Too Many?
Johnson himself was infected with the virus and spent time in an intensive care unit . . .
“Alright” you may say, “but aren’t politicians human and allowed to make mistakes?” Whilst I do believe that this event alone is reason enough to question Johnson’s leadership qualities, it is far from being the only party he esteemed necessary to attend during the past two years. Emails brought to light by TV channel ITV news show that over 100 staff members were invited to a “bring your own booze” get together in the No 10 (10 Downing Street) garden on May 20th, 2020. As you may remember, this was in the middle of the first lockdown – UK citizens were asked to stay at home unless they had a reasonable excuse to leave. And there might be another remark in order at this point: this was only a little longer than one month after Johnson himself was infected with the virus and spent time in an intensive care unit because of the severity of his illness. Yet, this rather shocking experience clearly did not impact his behaviour for long.
Sue Gray’s investigations include twelve events that were held or attended by Johnson and his fellow government members. Majority of these events not only violate the code of conduct for politicians, but that of ‘regular’ citizens at the time. Additionally, Gray asserts that the amount of excessive alcohol consumption at said gatherings appears inappropriate for UK government members, regardless of whether a pandemic was happening or not.
A Not So Innocent Boris Johnson?
When first confronted with his fatal mistakes in December, Johnson denied having attended any of the parties. Now that the amount of evidence is piling up, the prime minister feels himself being backed into a corner. In his apology to the House of Commons, he repeatedly stressed that he had attended – rather than hosted– the above-mentioned get together in May and had always considered it a work event. Maybe owning up to his mistakes and promising transparency about the ongoing investigations could have been a last attempt at saving his reputation, but this lame version of an excuse probably did not satisfy most UK citizens or oppositional politicians.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer pointed out Johnson’s lies, who initially denied that any parties had been hosted. Then, after proof of his staff joking about a Christmas party, he showed himself furious at the possibility of any parties having taken place only for the public to find out now that he had been at those events all along.
As Starmer phrased it himself, Johnson took UK citizens for fools. If politicians continue to act like this, no one should be surprised about increasing beliefs in conspiracy theories, general mistrust towards politicians and a decline in voter participation. Why follow the rules of a system whose representatives ignore the rules itself?
It remains to be seen whether the prime minister will pursue his ridiculous attempts at cleaning his name or give in and resign. Maybe, Johnson can come to one final adequate conclusion: to act in his nation’s favour by handing over his position by someone (anyone) more qualified than him.
Edited by: Aidan O’Reilly