On the 19th of December 2020 the Prime Minister announced additional COVID-19 restrictions were to be put in place, using the regional tiering system. London went into a new ‘Tier 4’, but Worcestershire remained in ‘Tier 2’. Herefordshire was in ‘Tier 1’.
At the time that the Downing Street gathering on 19th December took place London was in Tier 3 restrictions. The advice was clear that Christmas Parties should not take place in Tier 3 areas.
Like the vast majority of the British public, I am prepared to accept that it was a Christmas Party and that it should not have taken place.
We were somewhat lucky in Worcestershire as ‘Support Bubbles’ were still allowed to meet indoors and up to 6 people could meet outdoors. Across the border in Herefordshire it was possible for more people to meet indoors.
However, in London at the time the rules were clear: no indoor gatherings apart from with support bubbles, and no outdoor gatherings either.
To my mind, it would appear that rules were breached. This is unacceptable. The questions that arise from this include:
- Who sanctioned the gathering?
- Who organised it?
- Did the Prime Minister or other senior Ministers know about it?
The last question is the most troubling. We are told that the Prime Minister was not aware that a party took place and he has sought and received assurances. The Guardian reports:
Johnson insisted he had no personal knowledge of any party, saying: “I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party, and that no Covid rules were broken.”The Guardian
If this turns out to be incorrect and it is revealed that the Prime Minister knew a party was going to be taking place then it is a very serious matter indeed, although it would be for others in the House of Commons to take appropriate steps to restore trust and confidence in the government and its leadership.
When I talk to voters it is clear they are angry about what has happened, but they also recognise a wider government agenda that is dealing with many things from Brexit to borders, to levelling up and investing in police and hospitals, all at the same time as trying to manage our response to the COVID-19 virus that none of us asked for. They want the government as well as councillors to get on with their jobs.
As an aside, it is worth noting that the Matt Hancock story broke just before the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election, and this story broke just in time for the North Shropshire by-election. Forgive me if I am a little sceptical about something taking nearly a whole year to see the light of day. There are police officers all around Downing Street, did they see and hear nothing? Clearly what happened was wrong, but there are also other agendas at play here.
I will await the details from the inquiry being carried out by the Cabinet Secretary with great interest, and if the facts reveal that people knew more than they are telling us today then serious consequences must follow.