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HomeNewsDon’t blame the Downing Street partygoers, blame the rules

Don’t blame the Downing Street partygoers, blame the rules

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AS one who shuns social contact with work colleagues, my only possible reason for attending an office Christmas party would be to defy a Government edict forbidding the event. Respect, therefore, to any rebel who a year ago staged or joined an illicit gathering in defiance of the callous and illogical lockdown.

That salute to subversion does not, however, extend to what last year appears to have been a lengthy party season in and around Downing Street. The toadies of Number Ten were morally obliged to abide by their master’s command prohibiting convivial congregations, regardless of its authoritarian asininity.

Last year’s festive frolicking at the heart of Government has been much contrasted with the contemporaneous suffering of others. For instance, last week Jeremy Vine devoted much of his Channel 5 show to broadcasting calls from outraged viewers understandably bitter at having been separated from dying relatives by rules which apparently were being disregarded within the Government, several examples being:

To suit its agenda, the show distastefully exploited the callers’ private pain. Nonetheless, their anguish was understandable, and in the Commons there was a similar jeremiad from Labour MP Afzal Khan:

On Wednesday during Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir Starmer quoted what he termed the ‘heartbreaking question’ posed by Trish Greenhalgh: ‘Why did the Prime Minister expect her to accept that the rule allowed the Downing Street party but didn’t allow her to visit her dying mother?’

Trish Greenhalgh is a professor of primary health care at Oxford; in the words of her university biography, she is an ‘active contributor to the social media site Twitter’. At PMQs Starmer had quoted almost verbatim from a (now deleted) tweet by Greenhalgh, featured by the Mirror as an exclusive, which began: ‘Dear Allegra Stratton, on the day you partied, my mother called me, breathless and feverish. I didn’t visit.’ 

With 156,000 followers and a Twitter avatar which shows her dutifully masked, you will deduce that Professor Greenhalgh is a Left-leaning activist academic – which largely explains why the Leader of the Opposition chose to feature her during PMQs. She is also a Covid alarmist, fearmongering last Friday by tweeting: ‘The meme “Omicron is mild” has taken hold prematurely.’

Do not expect to see Trish Greenhalgh at any forthcoming Freedom rally campaigning against restrictions on liberty.

None of this is to detract from the distressing circumstances of her mother’s death. Yet she and the others who have complained of being separated from loved ones while Government staged parties still seem programmed to believe that they were ‘doing the right thing’ for the ‘greater good’; there remains a marked reluctance to criticise or even question those repressive regulations which caused them so much grief (and which some hospitals and care homes coldly continue to enforce).

By contrast, the partygoers in Downing Street evidently knew that last year’s lockdown rules were risible. The Rubicon had earlier been crossed the moment Government, supinely supported by the Opposition, dictatorially decreed when you could leave home and why; determined whom you could meet and where; and most heartlessly, isolated the dying from their families.

It is the unnecessary cruelty of that state-mandated segregation which ought to have been the target of last week’s anger.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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