NICKY MARR: Seething over the utter wrongness of No 10’s party antics
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There’s nothing like following politics to make me feel depressed. No – scratch depressed, I’m furious.
We all did it – we stuck to the rules to protect the NHS and save lives, and at great sacrifice. But there was one rule for us, and another for them. They were laughing at us, joking about getting away with it. And watching the publication of the Sue Gray report last week brought it all back.
While we missed the funerals of close friends during lockdown, missed seeing family and friends, worried about relatives who were isolated and lonely, and worried about the future of our businesses, teams at Number 10 were partying so hard that their 4am sick had to be mopped up by cleaners who started work just minutes after the karaoke machine had been unplugged. Cleaners tried to complain about the utter wrongness of it all, but no-one would listen.
Worse than that, they’ve got away with it. With nothing more than a handful of fines and the resignation of a scapegoat or two, the UK government have sailed through this sickening mess unscathed. Leadership? Give me strength. And to add insult to injury, Boris Johnston has changed the ministerial code, so future rule-breaking, lying to the public and giving out contracts to pals will be even easier.
To be fair, it wasn’t a great week for me to be watching this news unfold. Picture the scene, after two good years of dodging the virus (I was hit early, back in March 2020) I have succumbed again. It’s not much worse than bad flu, but it has floored me. My brain fuzzy with headaches, and suffering disturbed sleep with a hacking cough, I cancelled a week’s worth of work and took to my bed – or the settee – with tissues, paracetamol, and the remote controls. And I watched every infuriating minute of PMQs and the Sue Gray report press conference. And I seethed.
Because while I wasn’t as ill as I have been with regular flu, I did the right thing and I stayed at home.
How was your weekend? Here’s mine. Friday night. Hacking cough, feverish, but mainly feeling low. I’d had to let a client down because I was still testing positive. They found someone else – last-minute – to deliver the speech I’d spent days researching and crafting. I hope she got my fee…
Saturday. Cough a bit better, but woozy. Knackered. Still testing positive. An awful feeling, having to tell one of my best friends that I couldn’t come to her wedding, because I couldn’t live with myself if I knowingly passed this virus on.
Then home alone, yes, feeling yukky, but mostly feeling sorry for myself while everyone else was celebrating amidst peonies, champagne, love, and good wishes. Between coughing bouts, I watched the speeches and videos they sent me on WhatsApp. I may have shed a wee tear of self-pity.
Sunday. Up, showered, dressed (major victories) but not travelling to Glasgow to see The Pet Shop Boys in concert, so Mr Marr went with Daughter #1 instead. Eating wedding cake, delivered at a safe distance, distracting myself with telly.
But mainly thinking. Seething. Wondering, who the fool is here.
Should I have just lived my weekend? Gone to the dinner, the wedding, the concert? If everyone at Number 10 was breaking the rules at a time when the virus was much more dangerous, and before we had vaccinations, what’s the harm in little old me going out and spreading my watered-down germs around? It probably won’t kill anyone now – I’ve certainly gone out feeling worse before.
And with the recent resurgence in Covid cases, I wouldn’t have been the only person at the weekend’s events to be positive. But the difference was that I knew that I was positive. So, I followed the guidance. I did the right thing. What would Boris have done?
I’m no angel. In other aspects of my life, I break rules, I live dangerously, I push boundaries – we all do. It’s part of what keeps us feeling alive. But with Covid, where other people’s health could be compromised? My integrity won the day.
By the time you read this I’ll be back in circulation. And the PM will – unless there has been an unexpected avalanche of letters of no-confidence throughout the week - still be in charge.
Which all invokes a new kind of sickness. And renews my sense of fury.