CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 42.
The much delayed full report on Party Gate and Pandemic Restrictions by Sue Gray has finally been published and predictably it does not reveal much more than most people already knew or had already guessed. Yet, this mis-named full report is not actually a full report as the civil servant Sue Gray admits. For, she writes;
“….once the police investigation had commenced. The Metropolitan Police investigation had primacy. I have taken the view that it would not be necessary, appropriate or proportionate to undertake any further investigation work…” (Point 16 of the section ‘nature of investigations’ page 5. PDF version )
So Sue Grays investigation into Partygate antics throughout the pandemic was self terminated and what we have now has been admitted to be a less than full report. However, it is still worth making some comparisons between what has been revealed about how the ‘establishment’ conducted itself during the pandemic and how the bulk of British citizens responded to the restrictions placed by the government upon everyone in the UK. Sue Gray, a career civil servant was anxious to support the general contention that the government and senior politicians were doing their very best in unprecedented and difficult circumstances. She writes that;
“In particular, No 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office were at the centre of the Government’s response to the pandemic. Tight knit groups of officials and advisers worked long hours under difficult conditions…” (section 27 ‘Context’. Page 7. PDF version.)
This statement on ‘context’ fails to address the fact that a government policy document existed on how to systematically handle a pandemic. A pandemic of the resulting Covid19 magnitude had been anticipated since the previous SARS outbreak years earlier. This emergency policy document had considered and anticipated the responses needed if a pandemic should arrive. This comprehensive document was ignored, while this “tight knit group of officials and advisers” made regulations and recommendations up as they drank and partied their way through the months of restrictions and lock downs. Meanwhile the front line essential workers, ill advised and under-protected also ‘worked long hours under difficult conditions’, but sensibly and responsibly did not get drunk in “tight knit groups” at their place of work. Indeed, in the very next paragraph the author of the report feels the need to state the obvious.
“Those challenges, however, also applied to key and front line workers across the country who were working under equally, if not more, demanding conditions, often at risk to their own health. It is important to remember the stringency of the public health regulations in force in England over the relevant periods and that criminal sanctions were applied to many found to be in breach of them.” (ibid point 28 page PDF version)
Yes indeed; front line workers in hospitals, care homes, schools, super markets, and those staffing sewage works, transport services and much else, were working in much more demanding and dangerous conditions. Furthermore, front line workers were being paid a fraction of the salaries that those living it up in Downing Street and elsewhere. Nor were essential workers looking forward to “lots of fun” (as was expressed in a number 10, 14 May 2020, Internal Events Team memo. Reproduced on page 10). And regular drinking and bringing your own booze, whilst at the workplace performing essential work, was not on their agenda. Moreover, these essential workers were agonisingly staying away from celebrating (or even consoling) loved ones at birthdays, weddings and deaths. For;
“Gatherings of two or more persons indoors and more than six outdoors were prohibited. An exception permitted gatherings that are reasonably necessary for work purposes“…(page 13. PDF version.)
The ‘Leaving’ Events.
What follows are just six Partygate extracts from the Sue Gray report, there are of course 24 in all, but these few give the flavour of the rest.
“The event itself began shortly before 18.00 on 20 May 2020. It has been difficult to ascertain exact numbers in attendance, but it is likely that there were approximately 30-40 people in the garden.” (page 12. PDF version.)
“On 18 June 2020 over 25 people gathered for the first formal part of the leaving event with speeches which took place in the Cabinet Room, including No 10 official (1), Dominic Cummings and Simon Case, the Permanent Secretary for Covid and the Pandemic Response in No 10.”(page 15.PDF version.)
On 27 November 2020; “There were approximately 15 to 20 people in attendance, some of whom were drinking alcohol. As well as some people from the Press Office, a number of senior officials, private office staff and special advisers attended the event.” (page 19. PDF version.)
“Approximately 20-30 staff gathered in the canteen at around 17.00 on 10 December 2020. Staff had been invited to bring their own refreshments, including a suggestion in the invitation that those joining should bring their own bottle.” (page 21 PDF version.)
“On 17 December 2020 a leaving event for two No 10 Officials (³No 10 Officials (1) and (2)´) took place in No 10 in the Pillared Room. There were speeches, including from the Prime Minister and senior officials, and alcohol. Approximately 20 people attended. “ (page 26. PDF version.)
“On 17 December 2020 a leaving event took place for Kate Josephs, a Director General in the Covid Task force, and an official from No 10. The event took place in the Cabinet Office in 70 Whitehall and was attended by 20 to 30 officials, including senior officials, from No 10 and the Cabinet Office.” (page 27. PDF version.)
It is interesting and informative to note that at this senior governmental level, ‘leaving’ events for employees, at the height of the pandemic, allowed unrestricted numbers of colleagues to say goodbye to people – still alive – as they departed from their jobs. In other words for them leaving celebrations went on as pre-Covid ‘normal’. These leaving events were complete with lashings of booze, bonhomie and more. Whilst at the ordinary citizen level, family members whose ‘leaving’ or in many cases final ‘departure’ was from life itself, were restricted to how many could visit them (often none) and in what manner (some through a window) their last goodbyes could be allowed.
An All Night Party.
A further ‘leaving’ event took place on 16 April 2021 and then turned into an all-night party.
“Shortly before 21.30, there were over 20 people present in the garden, with a number of bottles of alcohol……Some individuals remained in the building and carried on drinking alcohol until the early hours. Exit logs indicate that some left after midnight and others between 01.45-02.45. Two members of staff stayed later still, with one leaving at 03.11 and the last leaving at 0.430.” ( Page 35 PDF version)
[200 party invites; getting drunk; sick on the floor; wine on the wall, being rude; a damaged swing: Oh yes! I remember such ‘freshers’ nights at university! I didn’t realise you could run the country at the same time though. RR]
Sue Gray’s Conclusions.
Among her eight conclusions I highlight just three.
“2……that a large number of individuals (83) who attended these events breached Covid regulations and therefore Covid guidance.” (page 36. PDF version.) “5. I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly. I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff.” (Page 36. PDF version.)
“5. I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviours at work which they had felt concerned about but at times felt unable to raise properly. I was made aware of multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff.” (Page 36. PDF version.)
“8. Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government. The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this. It is my firm belief, however, that these events did not reflect the prevailing culture in Government and the Civil Service at the time. Many thousands of people up and down the country worked tirelessly to deliver in unprecedented times. I remain immensely proud to be a civil servant and of the work of the service and the wider public sector during the pandemic.” (Page 37. PDF version.)”
It is clear to anyone capable of and willing to join all the dots, that the picture of governance traced during the entire pandemic period has been one of political and bureaucratic self – serving indulgence. These elite characteristics have been combined with personal and institutional incompetence and matched with an inability to be honest and accountable for ones actions. Failures with PPE, failures with test and tracing, emergency cash doled out to business buddies, vaccine hoarding with false claims of its effectiveness, disrespect for ordinary working people, double standards with regard to Covid regulations, and when caught out – a denial of any transgressions.
The capitalist system is disintegrating and the ‘establishment’, (in politics, judiciary, police, civil service and military) have closed ranks and are in damage limitation mode – only admit what you have to and keep close to the money and perks. Occasionally saying sorry, pretending to be ‘humble’ whilst arrogantly staying in office – when exposed as the problem which is preventing community solutions – is the thick skinned reflex of the modern political and bureaucratic classes the world over. However, in or out of office, a political class, over reliant on alcohol, which is downed at every opportunity, seems to be a UK phenomenon.
But no one really needs to fake surprise at this litany of elite failure and arrogant privilege. It is merely par for the course. What the UK elite have exhibited this pandemic (and over decades) is no different in essence than what every elite has done in the global, mass society communities of the 20th and 21st centuries. It was the case pre-Covid, during Covid and will continue post – Covid. Indeed, this pattern of behavior has always been the case – in all hierarchical mass societies – both ancient and modern. Ever since these top-down mass societies began, there has been one rule for the rich (which includes the governing elite) and another for the poor and the working classes.
As long as we – the classes essential to the functioning of the modern world – put up with this system and continue blaming each other for our problems, this pattern will continue.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2022)
For a copy of the full Sue Gray report see;