She captured the mood of the nation that day in her immortal cry of “not another one?!” On Monday, with the revelation of yet another lockdown-breaking Tory party, this time a boozy meet-up in the gardens of Number 10 to which over 100 staffers were invited, we were all Brenda from Bristol. Not another one?!
For many, this latest revelation represents the final straw and Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister has all but run out of road. He has taken us for fools, disregarded the very rules that he has been insisting we all follow, but worst of all, he has fatally undermined public confidence in the remaining public health measures that exist to protect us as we continue to grapple with the Covid emergency.
His position is untenable, and he should resign the office of Prime Minister immediately.
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Suddenly, it all makes sense. It’s clear now that the baffling defence by Tory high command of Dominic Cummings’ eyesight-testing trip to Barnard Castle was offered, not out of some twisted loyalty to the PM’s Svengali, but because by-and-large they were all at it.
If they weren’t locked in a clinch with their lover on CCTV, they were attending one of the many multi-household soirees to be enjoyed around Whitehall at the time. One rule for us, no rules for them.
Cast your mind to what was going on when this BYOB knees-up in the sun-drenched garden of the PM’s official residence was taking place.
Weddings and christenings were cancelled; people were saying goodbye to the people they loved most in the world via Facetime links to intensive care units and then attending the funerals of those same loved ones via Zoom links.
People with medical conditions that required them to shield were barely able to leave the house for more than seven months, battling the mental strain of isolation while families shouted greetings to care home residents through windowpanes.
When you remember the sacrifices made by so many to follow the rules and public health advice, Johnson’s position is all the more unsustainable. While they seem not to care about the hypocrisy, you can see his colleagues nervously eyeing the impact of all this on Tory poll ratings.
I was campaigning in the North Shropshire by-election when the run of lockdown party stories began in earnest. The impact of those revelations on what should have been a true-blue Conservative citadel was palpable and astonishing.
Door after door, I encountered the same statements, “one rule for them”, “taking us for fools”. The Lib Dem victory was already on the cards before those stories broke, but they turbocharged it.
Boris Johnson has lost the room. At a moment when viral transmission has never been higher, he has squandered any goodwill that was left in the public for his government’s response to the pandemic. Leaders lead from the front, but a fish rots from the head down. He has lost the trust of the British people and he should lose his job.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western