Thursday 20 January 2022

Hints of desperation


The attempt by some Tories this week to suggest that ‘Keith’ is as guilty of breaking lockdown rules as Johnson, and establish some sort of equivalence between him and Johnson because of a photograph showing him drinking a lunchtime beer during a day spent campaigning, smacked of desperation and barrel-scraping. It was also a rather pathetic attempt at misdirection, with its implicit suggestion that the ‘sins’ being committed in Downing Street were all to do with the consumption of alcohol. Whilst the consumption of apparently industrial quantities of alcohol certainly adds colour to the stories, painting, as it does, a picture of celebration and insouciance whilst others were sick and dying, the line actually crossed in Downing Street wasn’t that one at all. There was nothing in the Covid rules which barred the consumption of alcohol, even if it occurred in the workplace; what was forbidden was people gathering together for non-work purposes.

Had the infamous ‘drinks party’ in May last year resulted in 100 people gathering in the garden after work to drink lemonade and mineral water, it would have been an equally egregious breach of the rules as that which actually occurred. If the media had got hold of a picture of Starmer clutching a diet coke at 7 in the evening in the company of a gang of colleagues who had finished campaigning for the day, they would have got him ‘bang to rights’, to use the sort of lawyerly phrase with which he is presumably familiar. But taking a break to eat a takeaway at lunch time with the same people as he’d been working with all morning before carrying on in the afternoon? Under the rules, what he was drinking was irrelevant, even if unwise. The problem for Johnson and those around him is not their love of wine, but their inability to distinguish between a work meeting and a social gathering. Even ‘Keith’ can do that much.

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