by Amy Jones
Monday, 17
January 2022
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11:42

Keir Starmer is taking the wrong lesson from partygate

Labour should reflect on their complicity in our absurd Covid policies
by Amy Jones
Credit: Getty

Today’s papers are once again littered with stories about Boris Johnson’s Downing Street parties. But this time the focus isn’t just on Boris, with the Mail showing a photograph of Keir Starmer drinking beer with political aides during lockdown. This revelation might have given Labour the opportunity to change their position on partygate —by focusing on the absurdity of the Covid rules rather than Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy in flouting them. But Starmer as yet has refused to do this, carrying on with mechanistic calls for the PM to resign.

His party’s response hasn’t been much better. A single tweet last week containing a harrowing story from “Jenny”, a nurse who tells a story about a man who waited in a hospital car park begging to be let in, while his wife died inside and alone. Never mind that by the 20th May 2020, the Government had changed its policy on end-of-life visits in hospital, and that such decisions were taken by the hospitals themselves. Such nit-picking was all a distraction from Labour’s PR plan; the point was clear — millions of people made horrific sacrifices during the pandemic and Boris’s alcohol-fuelled revelry had made a mockery of them all.

Labour, of course, was fully behind all Coronavirus laws and relentlessly pushed for more draconian restrictions. At one point Starmer even described voting for Covid legislation as his “patriotic duty”. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Labour has paid little attention to the absurdity and unpleasantness of the Covid rules.

Aside from the arbitrary cruelty displayed in stories like Jenny’s, the enforcement of many of the restrictions bordered on farcical — did we ever establish whether a scotch egg counts as a substantial meal? — to downright absurd — unlucky walkers receiving fines for drinking a coffee together because it constituted a picnic. Was it constructive for our home secretary to warn people that they would be in trouble if they sat on a park bench? Or for Police forces to threaten people with £200 fines for having a snowball fight?

Some of the penalties for breaking Covid laws were similarly mind-boggling. A year on, it seems astounding that the Government were willing to issue 10-year jail terms for travellers from red countries for breaking quarantine rules, and that £10k fines were levied at pastors for holding meetings in Church car parks. Labour happily voted for and supported these regulations, no matter how overbearing.

It was surprising to say the least that Starmer, a former human rights QC, didn’t question the proportionality or the wisdom of some of these restrictions. But even more surprising has been his silence on the policing of the laws, with a disproportionate number of BAME people fined under coronavirus legislation. Pre-Covid, minority suffering would have been a major Labour talking point.

Over two years on from the start of the pandemic and Labour still won’t hear a word said against the Covid regulations. As Labour’s publication of Jenny’s story makes clear, the problem is not drinks at Number Ten but the Covid restrictions themselves. The public rage at Johnson’s hypocrisy may well be his undoing. But rather than just using these harrowing stories for points against him, Labour would do well to reflect on their own part in all this, and their own encouragement of such a misconceived set of laws.

Amy Jones is an anonymous doctor who has a background in Philosophy & Bioethics.

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John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago

Great article, but as regards the final sentence it’ll never happen. There will be no willing revelation of conscience over the horrendous overreaction to Covid espoused by the political class and certainly not by Labour, which is the party for the Big State.

There is just some small chance that some Tory MPs will take up this issue because they are at least theoretically aligned with the principle of limited government, but I suspect that really it will come from Reform and Nigel Farage, who are probably about to have a field day for a couple of years as the revelations emerge over exactly how badly misled we all were by the officials responsible for this utter fiasco.

Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Starmer said ‘the behaviour of Johnson and his staff was culpable, but far, far worse than that were the absurd and inhumane restrictions placed on people’s lives, a process in which I colluded and which I encouraged and exacerbated. For that I’m truly sorry’. It might even make one thing he was worthy of being PM. Fat chance.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I’d assume it was April already if that happened.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
4 months ago

Indeed I was appalled by the “Jenny” narrative. Interesting to learn now that it was the Hospital itself deciding to keep the poor man away from his dying wife. But, whoever made the rule, the story of this lack of humanity smacked so much of “just following orders” that Jenny should reflect long and hard on the kind of person she really is and whether a “caring” profession really is the best career.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
4 months ago

Sorry, I can’t remember which Northern Ireland ex-paramilitary said this, but here goes – when asked if the violence had been worth it, he said it was, because he just couldn’t bear to contemplate the thought that it was not worth it. I think a similar logic is going to be at work for a long time, in how we reflect on the proportionality of the various Covid restrictions.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
4 months ago

Excellent article Amy. So much better than your last involving sexist accusations against the NHS.
Unfortunately, many have been involved in irrationally cruel anti-covid measures as the Jenny story illustrates. Sadly, far too many succumbed to overreaction propaganda generated by politicians, journalists and many others and far too few actually attempted to follow the science in a scientific fashion.

Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
4 months ago

The fact is that if it weren’t for the mass media and government propaganda, here in this sleepy Scottish town of 10,500 people, I would have absolutely no idea that there even was a pandemic.
To me, this is simply mass-hysteria, and I want no part of it at all. It shows our democracy in a very bad light that no opposition party seriously challenged the government narrative.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

That reminds me of a joke from a while back: Why don’t the Amish get COVID? Because they don’t have TVs

Johanna Barry
Johanna Barry
4 months ago

I thank the Lord daily for the Tory rebels. If the leader of no opposition, Mr Lock ’em Down Longer and Harder, had had his way we would be in excatly the same mess as Europe with masks indoors and out, n95s glued to our faces and people exercising their right not to take a drug they don’t want, being brutally excluded from society. As it is, England might just play a role in leading the world out of the dark of covid insanity and back into a 2019 sort of sanity.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago

Amen!

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
4 months ago

It doesn’t surprise me that Boris was flouting the covid restrictions when it was clear he never really wanted to bring them in and was under pressure from Sage and Labour and DC if memory serves correctly. Tbf Starmer would be a hypocrite if he did criticise the restrictions given how much Labour wanted and supported them!

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago

To make a sweeping generalization the most restrictive COVID rules appear to come from countries in the grip of people who believe that ‘collectivism’ means that they may exert authoritarian control over individuals.
And that leads to nominal liberals (like the Democrats in the USA) trying to impose compulsory vaccination, or keeping the unvaccinated locked down. Liberals and totalitarianism, who knew?

Dominic mckeever
Dominic mckeever
4 months ago

Boris has made it clear from his actions that he didn’t believe in the restrictions. He should therefore have shown leadership and stood his ground against pop-up experts, craven media and fearful public opinion. He wasn’t forced into it- he gambled on what he perceived to be the populist, vote- winning option. Just like Brexit.

Last edited 4 months ago by Dominic mckeever
James Chater
James Chater
4 months ago

comment dltd

Last edited 4 months ago by James Chater
Peter LR
Peter LR
4 months ago

Thanks for pointing out the rule change by May 2020. The question I would like answering was whether drinking in the garden was due to:
1) they knew the rules were OTT and so ignored them without telling the rest of us;
2) being one of the few offices with workers still in them, they needed a break in their ‘garden’;
3) they were just being superciliously arrogant as no one could ‘see them’.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I think it’s a combination of 1 and 3. I do not think they really believed the the lockdown made as much difference as they claimed. Combined with the built in arrogance of our rulers, these kinds of violations were inevitable. Additionally, we see these violations throughout the world (Nancy Pelosi’s haircut, cameras off masks off etc) and across the political spectrum.
I still think point 1 is the key though, I doubt even the Tories want to kill their own grandmothers.

James Chater
James Chater
4 months ago

comment dltd

Last edited 4 months ago by James Chater