In case you’re not fully up to date, reports have been emerging over the past couple of weeks regarding ‘social events’ - read: illegal parties - that occurred within Downing Street whilst lockdowns were imposed. The Met Police have said they will investigate the claims, and Civil Servant, Sue Gray, has recently published her first findings regarding ‘Partygate’ – concluding that there are ‘failures of leadership and judgement.’ As more findings are released in the following months, I’m certain we’ll see more criticism.
As a student, I am of course outraged at the hypocrisy of the Tory government. For most of the pandemic, students and young people have been scapegoated for the spread of Covid-19, because we’re an easy group to rally against. Whilst I cannot deny that some young people did break lockdown rules, I do not think that excuses placing blame on the entire group. Particularly, that it has now emerged that the government were doing the very thing they were villainising us for.
As an example, in October 2020, four Nottingham students were fined £10,000 each and suspended from university for breaking lockdown rules. This was just after the tier system was imposed, and as Nottingham was in Tier 2, household mixing was banned. Two months later, the then Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, threw a party for the Department for Education staff when London was also under Tier 2 restrictions. This is now being investigated in the Sue Gray inquiry, and whilst the question should regard why it has taken so long for this event, and others, to come to light, we already know the answer lies in years of Tory corruption and hypocrisy.
Whilst I wasn’t fined for breaking lockdown rules, I know some who were. I think the question of getting your money back if you were fined is a difficult one, because whilst I agree with punishment for breaking lock down, it cannot be ignored that fines disproportionately affect the poor. I largely disagree with punishments regarding money as a concept. For some, the money lost is a difference between putting food on the table, whilst for those who can afford it, it barely dint's their pocket (and that’s if they’re even punished).
I don’t think I wasted my time in following the regulations because I do truly believe that it made a difference. Whilst I have had Covid-19 myself twice now over the course of these two years, I have primarily followed the rules to protect those around me that are more vulnerable if they contracted the virus. However, I can understand why people may feel like they’ve wasted their time when those who imposed the restrictions weren’t even following them in the first place.
I truly hope that those in Westminster are punished for their illegal parties during lock down, but I don’t hold much hope. I do not think fines would severely affect them. Of course, Boris Johnson is currently receiving votes of no-confidence from members of his own party, so with any luck he will step down. This would not, however, fix the issue. I only hope that the people see that whilst they were barred from visiting family, those in power were laughing at their sacrifices, and that in the next general election, they’re voted out.