January 12, 2022 7.00 pm

Barry Turner: So who was at that party, Boris?

Police turned a blind eye while breaking up student parties and vigils

We are all now familiar with the events of May 20th 2020.  Bring a bottle booze ups in the Number 10 gardens, now thanks to faux apology and well-rehearsed and even more faux contrition delivered at PM’s questions by Boris Johnson, it’s no longer just an allegation. He was there with as many of thirty of the Downing Street staff.

Now, of course he tells us it was an error of judgement and we must now wait for his appointee, senior civil servant Sue Grey to confirm that. Boris, though superficially apologetic still would not accept that he and his myrmidons had done anything wrong. Just a bunch of people who somehow all went into the number 10 garden at the same time fully equipped with the booze they were instructed to bring in an invitation that certainly looked like an invitation to a garden party.

Slowly but surely we will find out who else was at that party, attended by those who at the time were devising the rules that applied to the rest of us. Remarkably those people who we once used to trust somehow were the most confused and unaware people with regard to the rules in the country. Only a couple of hours earlier Oliver Dowden the government spokesperson recited them to us all from the ‘pulpit’ of the Number 10 briefing room, the hallowed ground of government advisor and pharmaceutical shareholder Sir Patrick Vallance and the now legendary Professor Chris Whitty

But just tens of meters away in the same building the invitations were being received to a little get together to make the most of the lovely weather and to bring a bottle. I guess quite a few people would love such a working environment how many other working people get to take booze to work and stand around in the balmy evening sun to drink it? Perhaps anyone looking for job in the civil service and party apparatuses should emphasis on their CV that their qualifications and experience include sunbathing and drinking.

So, Boris came clean at last, well almost… er perhaps not even almost.  For the previous four days he had been asked directly by politicians and journalists alike.  “Were you at the party Prime Minister?” “We will have to wait for the findings of the enquiry” was his response over and over again, punctuated by a smirk and shrug giving the hubris of the over-privileged an entirely new meaning in modern politics. The smirk and the shrug were in fact the answer as loud and clear as a foghorn. “One rule for us and another for you lot… OK!”

We have come to expect this of him of course. It is not a shock that this revelation is now made out to be true, it would have been utterly incredible of it wasn’t true.  The leader of the opposition, a former brilliant lawyer turned utterly inept politician even obliquely called him a liar at PM’s questions, a practice normally punishable by a temporary suspension for the House. Sir Keir was of course expressing the view of the public rather than his own and escaped the wrath of the speaker.

On a final note, concerning the attendees at that party. A group of people also with privileged access to Number 10 and its gardens. A group of people who stand at the door of Number 10 and at the gates at the end of the street. A group of people who watch over the gardens and back door of Number 10 24/7 the whole year round. Yes, folks none other than the Metropolitan Police who we are told are also considering an investigation into whether the law was broken. Around about the time of the May 20th knees-up they certainly knew the law when breaking up student parties and vigils for murder victims.

One has to wonder on that fateful day why those boys and girls in blue diligently watching the CCTV in the garden at number 10 did not ask the seminal question asked by coppers since time immemorial, “Hello, Hello, Hello. what’s going on ‘ere then?” and ask one of their colleagues at the address to check, guess it’s just an error of judgement.

Soon Boris will be facing the judgement if his own backbenchers who have now had enough of this Byzantine excess. Let’s hope they don’t make any errors there.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.