While NHS workers cared for dying patients, No 10 officials drank prosecco, did karaoke and boasted they had “got away” with it
Actions have consequences, goes the cliche, but in England this maxim applies to the powerless, not the powerful. The nurse who helped bear the horror of the pandemic and was fined £10,000 for a socially distanced protest against her real-terms pay cut faced consequences; so did the woman fined £10,000 for releasing balloons for her dead father-in-law. For those charged with designing, implementing and communicating the rules, not so much.
According to Sue Gray’s report, finally published today, while the country was subject to severe lockdown rules that banned hugs, No 10 officials drank beer and prosecco until they vomited, spilled wine down walls, broke a child’s swing, organised events cutely named “wine time Friday” and “wine and cheese evening” alongside a secret Santa, entertained themselves with a karaoke machine – generously provided by the former director general for propriety and ethics – and partied until after 4am. They didn’t care about what was right or wrong, but rather what was deemed a “comms risk”, and boasted – in the words of Boris Johnson’s private secretary Martin Reynolds – that they seemed “to have got away with” their illicit drinks.
Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist
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