All the world's a hypocrite: the Downing Street Christmas party and the true meaning of hypocrisy

With the country aghast this week after footage emerged regarding a Downing Street party last Christmas, we take a second look at events.

Gurvinder Sidhu
12th December 2021
Christmas at 10 Downing Street. Image Credit: Flickr.

Many people have been aghast and appalled this week as it was uncovered a party took place at Downing Street on the 18th of December 2020. Yes, you heard it right. Exactly when the country was in lockdown and just two days after London was announced to be in Tier 3, meaning people were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household.

In the video obtained by ITV, Allegra Stratton, spokesperson to our PM at the time, can be seen struggling to contain her amusement when asked, “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas Party?” This is followed by an eruption of laughter from colleagues and references to “cheese and wine”. Since this, she has unsurprisingly resigned, and Boris has launched an “inquiry”, which will undoubtedly be ineffectual.  

Mark Twain once said "politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason". He had it about right. This was a time when people were being handed out fines for similar parties; a group in Ormskirk were forced to pay £10,000 for pulling off something similar in February 2021.  The National Police Chief Council recorded 2, 982 similar cases last year, when people were asked to cough up. When I sat down with my barber this week, like many, we cursed politicians for being “hypocrites”. I am sure we were not the only ones who used that exact word.

This is odd seeing as the word was once used in Ancient Greece to refer to male actors in Theatre. “Hypo-“  meaning under and “Krinein” meaning to decide; actors wore masks and from underneath them chose their words carefully to express their character best. By this definition, Shakespeare would call us all hypocrites, while proclaiming “all the world’s a stage”.

To some degree we know Shakespeare’s right. Attending a dinner party, we put on our mask to fit with the occasion and carefully navigate ourselves through the night, with polite chit chat and asking questions that truthfully, we do not actually care the answer for.

In the same way as Westminster, we choose our words carefully. We complain about the way McDonald’s treats its employees and yet we still drunkenly stumble into McDonalds each Friday night. We decide to lose weight but never go to the gym. We complain about the state of politics but choose to not vote. Benjamin Franklin once said "So convenient a thing to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do". As Franklin says, we explain our actions after the fact. Boris will think of something surely.  

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