Boris Johnson’s utter disregard for the rules tramples on the legacy of loved ones we have lost to Covid
Four-hundred-and-fifteen minutes after the Prime Minister’s “apology” (I make no apology myself for using quotation marks around that word in relation to this all), his face was staring at me once again.
Only this time, it wasn’t the sheepish look he had when my friend Hannah Brady’s story was read to him during Prime Ministers Questions that greeted me. It was the same blank look I’d seen so many times at the start of a Conservative party-political broadcast.
To me, it’s the look Narcissus must have given his own reflection in the pool.
We paid the ultimate price, the public obeyed the rules. He didn’t
A few minutes in, my phone started pinging uncontrollably with messages from people who had lost loved ones to Covid-19, furious that his “apology” had already given way to politics.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a lot of “us” and “our”. Only it doesn’t feel like “us” at all.
It feels like we paid the ultimate price, the public obeyed the rules. He didn’t.
Jo Goodman, Matt Fowler, Hannah Brady, Debs Doyle, Charlie Williams, Becky Kummer and everyone else who gave a place for those of us who lost loved ones to the virus together and all those who obeyed the rules - that’s “us”.
This is Boris Johnson’s first apology and yet I find it hard to consider it sincere. When a child apologises you ask them what they are sorry for. You wouldn’t expect to ask the same of the Prime Minister. Still, I’m not entirely sure what his lacklustre “apology” was actually for.
I considered whether it could be for refusing to meet with bereaved families for over a year and after eight letters.
I then wondered if it was an apology for saying he had “done everything he could to save our loved ones” to our faces in the very same place that the Downing Street party, or “work meeting” with a bring your own booze policy, had happened.
But no, I finally realised it was a classic political non-apology. I’m not sure I can think of a better way to phrase it.
Weeks and weeks of stories about rules being broken, a failure to remember if he himself was at the party, insult upon insult added to our grief and this was it? A solitary, mumbled, “I was there but didn’t realise it was not a work event”? What kind of work environment features numerous bottles of alcohol? Has the Prime Minister already resigned and unbeknownst to everyone else, become landlord of the Red Lion or a barman at Strangers?
In reality, the apology should be to all of us, but particularly the memories of the 176,035 people in the UK who died from Covid. For those of us who loved them it was their legacy he trampled on.
A technicality riddled “apology” will be our time's “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” moment. Just as disdainful, just as deceitful, just as unacceptable.
This is the Prime Ministers legacy, that and the 176,035 and the people who will add to that number.
But for now, there is only really one number that matters.1922.
Lobby Akinnola is a member of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.