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‘Partygate’ shows UK leaders ignored covid rules

Gemma Christie/YJI

Chester, UK – Britain’s latest political controversy – nicknamed ‘Partygate’ – is about more than lawbreaking. It’s about privileged people in power not being held to account for their actions the same way ordinary people would.

The London tabloid The Mirror recently released video footage of a December 2020 party in the Conservative Party campaign headquarters, in the height of the covid 19 pandemic.  Though the video, released June 17, clearly shows members of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party breaking the country’s strict covid rules, no one has been punished for the violations.

The lack of repercussions is only more evidence of the corruption within the Conservative Party.

“This is absolutely unacceptable too and I think could indicate that political interests take priority over justice,” said 17-year-old Victoria Szymala, who is a student in Chester.

Despite showing disregard for the rules that the Conservatives themselves had put into place, the parties also symbolize a strong us -and-them narrative. It’s one rule for the people in power and another for the millions who must follow them.

“Meanwhile most of the population was abiding by the rules necessary to protect others,” said Szymala.

At the time, covid rules forbade gatherings of all sorts – even funerals or Christmas celebrations. People were required to stay at home.

“The fact that families couldn’t grieve properly is heart-wrenching and it is entirely hypocritical of the people who should present model image,” said Szymala. “The same people that have promised to work in our interest have entirely abused their power and degraded the rest if the country in such a way.”

Partygate first came to the public’s attention in 2021, when Johnson assured the House of Commons that no covid rules were broken.

But in the years that followed, increasing amounts of incriminating evidence against the Conservatives came to light.

These include a 2021 video broadcast by ITV News of then-Press Secretary Allegra Stratton admitting in 2020 that the gathering was “not socially distanced.”

Within days of the video’s release, she resigned from her post.

The Guardian released a photograph in December 2021 that showed 19 people drinking wine in a garden at 10 Downing Street.

The Christmas party footage from The Mirror shows two people dancing very closely. A conversation can be heard which includes a partygoer – when asked if he was filming – answering, “As long as we don’t stream that we’re like, bending the rules.”

Not only was it the breaking of rules that were put in place to protect people, but they occurred at the height of the lockdowns, when families couldn’t grieve together at funerals and hospitals were overcrowded with seriously ill people.

It’s likely that the Conservative party will not face the repercussions for their actions from the Metropolitan Police that many ordinary people had to face for breaching covid rules.

The inequality in the handling of lawbreaking within the government has been noticeable several times. One example is when Dominic Cummings, ex-chief adviser to the prime minister, breached the rules by driving out of town to visit family during the pandemic in 2020 and faced no consequences.

There is no doubt that the parties broke covid rules and that Johnson was aware of it. British lawmakers already found Johnson guilty of deliberately misleading the House of Commons about the parties.

This embarrassing affair reflects badly on the United Kingdom, and the failure to properly address the lawbreaking with sanctions only adds to the humiliation.

Gemma Christie is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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