As I work close to Parliament square, I pass by 10 Downing Street on my way home and I often stop and mutter some words under my breath. On Friday 10 December I came across a very dignified and resolute protest by six women outside the gates of Parliament. The group was part of Covid 19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, and they were hosting a cheese and wine party. There were some very tasty looking biscuits and a lovely spread of assorted cheeses. There was a display of photographs of their loved ones who had sadly passed away due to Covid.
Despite their genuine hospitality and eagerness for me to sample the cheese and biscuits I suddenly felt numb, and a deep sense of sadness engulfed me as I gently turned down the offer. The symbolism of the protest was so poignant and despite the circumstances the team were chatty and very welcoming but keen to relay their personal stories. One had lost a mother. She told me that 22 minutes after admission to a hospital she was deemed not suitable for intensive care.
The group asked me about the placard I was carrying which was covered in a black bin bag. I took it out. It had been created especially and displayed on the day Matt Hancock had his appearance before the health select committee during the summer. It portrays Boris Johnson as “guilty”.
It’s a stark image and claim but reflecting on it further on my way home later on I felt that it was so appropriate to display at the gates of 10 Downing Steet.
Betrayal by Boris Johnson
The Covid memorial wall is situated just opposite the Houses of Parliament beside St Thomas’s hospital not far from Downing Street. It’s the hospital that treated Johnson when he was ill with Covid. The group I met look after the wall. There are tens of thousands of hearts on it all with a personal reflection about a loved one lost to Covid. It was so lovely to see the group feature on Channel 4 News, ITV and many other programmes when I got home.
The sad reality is that we have all been betrayed by our government be it Matt Hancock in his office meeting his lover or Boris Johnson and his team partying. We know other government departments held parties and enjoyed themselves last Christmas. This was as families all over the country were getting bad news or fearing the imminent loss of a loved one. We don’t need to repeat the slogans or headlines of this despicable behaviour but we must call it out.
Socially distanced from reality
So many people are flouting the rules on mask wearing, as Johnson did when he visited Hexham hospital recently. He seems incapable of effective leadership or dealing with reality.
What must we do?
We must follow the rules including getting vaccinated.
I was amazed how many did not wear a mask on my journeys around London last week. It has improved but still many don’t follow the official guidance. If we asked why, I suspect that many will say something like:
“If they had a party and didn’t wear a mask when required, why should I comply?”
The whole situation is a sad reflection on the Prime Minister’s leadership.
Johnson has destroyed confidence in his own public health messages and has personally flouted the rules. This is serious and people might die because of his cavalier attitude to the truth, his recklessness and his lack of true leadership.
If we cannot trust our leaders, who can we trust in a national health emergency?
By early spring I fear there will be many more names on the Covid memorial wall. We all have a personal responsibility to act sensibly wear masks and follow the health guidance offered by professionals.
We can minimise the deaths and numbers of hospital admissions if we all act together and in each other’s interests. It may mean no social gatherings for a few weeks. This is a small cost.
In the meantime we need a leader who will take responsibility and lead.
As the public’s confidence in Johnson ebbs away his Tory MPs have now staged a massive rebellion with an estimated 99 members voting against his ‘Plan B’ Covid proposals. It’s very clear that his party is losing confidence in his ability to lead and manage this health crisis. With so many Tory MPs suggesting deep unease with his behaviour and the political crisis engulfing him this may cause many to flout the rules. This, as we know, may have health consequences for hundreds and potentially thousands.