Families’ anger at Tories ‘nationwide betrayal’ after Christmas overwhelmed by grief


Watching hypocrite Boris Johnson and his Tory colleagues enjoying Christmas parties in lockdown has been hard to stomach for these bereaved families, who tell the Mirror they feel insulted and personally attacked

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Pippa Crear skewers Boris Johnson over Downing Street party

They spent last Christmas lonely and overwhelmed by grief – staying home to protect others and mourning loved ones they had lost to Covid.

So for bereaved families, watching leaked footage of Boris Johnson and colleagues enjoying festive ­get-togethers and parties has been hard to stomach.

In Hannah Brady’s house there was an empty seat at the table last year.

While the Tories partied, she was putting a jacket on the chair and a glass of lemonade by the plate where her dad, Shaun, should have been, before making a visit to his grave.

The 55-year-old passed away from Covid in May 2020. In September we met Hannah and other members of campaign group, Covid Bereaved Families for Justice at the Labour Party Conference.

While they pushed for an inquiry, they couldn’t have imagined how senior Conservatives had behaved.

Hannah as a child with her sister and dad Shaun

As Hannah explains: “The hope we had last Christmas Day was, ‘we’re all in the same position, we’re all suffering because we want to protect each other.’

“But the people making these rules were not only breaking them, they were having parties to congratulate ­themselves on the mishandling of a pandemic and laughing about it.

“It’s a nationwide betrayal.

“To think about the state almost 100,000 people were in, having lost people to Covid, add in all those people dying of other causes, those struggling with their mental health and you’re looking at millions of people who spent Christmas alone or more alone than they’d like to be.

“Now I’m going to spend another Christmas looking at my relatives on Zoom, wondering whose funeral I’m going to attend next.”

Matt with dad Ian Christmas 2019

As Hannah explains, while Boris was hosting a festive quiz and colleagues were partying at Tory HQ and No10, she and her family were struggling to get through their first Christmas Day without her dad.

Shaun worked for Heinz near his home in Wigan, Lancs. A kind, conscientious man, he had barely had a day off sick in 22 years and looked forward to spending time with his daughters over Christmas.

“Usually I’d have been down to see Dad first,” Hannah says, “Then take him to see my nan in her care home – but she died of Covid too.

“We couldn’t do that last year – it was awful – but it was clearly just business as usual in Number 10.

“At our Christmas meal we put a coat on the back of a chair on the table for Dad and a glass of lemonade. I saw his headstone but couldn’t spend Christmas with him and I never will be able to again. Imagine how it felt for all those medical staff too.

“When Dad was in hospital it was the time of the VE Day parties, they were outdoors and the nurses would be crying down the phone about that so what must they have thought hearing about indoor parties?”

Shaun and his mum Christmas 2019

Hannah is terrified that others will suffer too. “On Sunday my granddad rang me feeling really unwell – he’s negative but he’s got the flu – and I spent time going through the same process in my head that I did when Dad died,” she explains.

“I was going through what I’d say at his funeral, what will my life be like without him – that is the risk that Boris Johnson is putting on everybody.”

Hannah is one of those campaigning for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid, via pressure group Covid Bereaved Families for Justice.

Founder member Matt Fowler,34, a Jaguar Land Rover worker from Nuneaton, Warks, says this week’s revelations about Conservative partying have made things harder for him – and for the rest of the country too.

As he says, the Tories’ hypocrisy is undermining public health messaging as the UK faces its most serious Covid crisis yet.

Matt, who lost his dad Ian, 56, a retired design engineer, in April 2020, says: “What happened is an insult, it feels like a personal attack on all bereaved families.

“Not only was it difficult to go through Christmas without the people we’d lost but we thought we were working towards something better, trying to do everything we could for the benefit of others but the people in power weren’t. It’s abject cowardice that they won’t own up to it.

“That, to me, is unforgivable.”

Hannah and Matt feel robbed
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Image:

David Dyson)

Like so many families, he feels the loss of his fun-loving dad more than ever at Christmas.

“Last year was traumatic,” he says, “Especially for my mum – my mum and dad had been together for 34years. This year will be hard too.

“For me, for all of my life, Christmas has been about spending it with my mum and my dad. We’d head to theirs early and start drinking straight away – my dad had got this new drink, Jamesons’ ginger beer and lime – we’d have games and karaoke.

“It was usually chaos, in that family way you can’t explain or duplicate, but Dad was the lynchpin that held the family together.”

Matt warns the Government’s actions will cost more lives this winter.

“We’re already seeing the impact,” he says. “People saying, ‘why should we take any notice of the Government?’ It was already very difficult because of all the mixed messaging, the times where they’d broken the rules before, all that had already broken people’s resolve.

“Now it will be even worse. We can’t trust them, can we?”

He adds: “Public safety has never been their priority. The job should be taken away from them, it should be health officials who make the rules.”

This week, Baroness Hallett was appointed chair of next year’s public inquiry into how the Covid response has been handled, and Matt hopes lessons will finally be learned.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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