‘They party at Christmas. I stood in tears at my elderly aunt’s gate’: Manchester reacts to Downing Street Covid ends

Mancunians who obeyed strict Covid restrictions as parties were held in breach of them in Government have reacted with anger to the news the Prime Minister and Chancellor will be fined following a police probe. Carrie Johnson, Boris Johnson’s wife, has also been told to expect a fixed-penalty notice, her spokeswoman confirmed.

It comes after the Metropolitan Police announced 30 additional fines on Tuesday in relation to Operation Hillman, which is looking into breaches of Covid-19 regulations at the top of Government. Both the PM and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, are facing calls to resign.

The Met later confirmed that Mr Johnson was fined for his participation in a gathering in the Cabinet Room on his birthday on June 19 2020, No 10 said. It’s claimed there were up to 30 people present, together with cake and picnic food.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices. We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do.”

While the Government was partying, residents living under Covid restrictions told how they were mourning the loss of loved ones they weren’t allowed to see.

At the time two leaving parties were held in Downing Street – gatherings believed to be a part of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation – and the party on Mr Johnson’s birthday, socializing indoors with those from other households was outlawed, meaning people were prevented from seeing relatives.

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Scotland Yard said on Tuesday that it had made at least 50 referrals for fixed-penalty notices – up from 20 at the end of March – to ACRO Criminal Records Office, which is responsible for issuing the fines. Mr Johnson is understood to have been present at six of the at least 12 events being investigated. The Prime Minister, speaking in the Commons in December after allegations about parties in Downing Street first emerged, said that “all guidance was followed completely in No 10.”

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson

Patrick Brady, 56, from south Manchester, recalled standing at the front gate of his elderly aunt and uncle in Manchester on Christmas Day 2020, together with his young daughter. They were the only remaining relatives from his mother’s side of him and the experience, he said, made him cry.

Reacting to news of the fines, Mr Brady said: “Whilst ordinary people like my daughter and I stood at the garden gate, in face masks, to wish my elderly aunt and uncle happy Christmas, fearing to even go to their front door, Johnson , Sunak et al partied and ignored Covid rules.

“It is morally wrong, but Boris Johnson just gets away with it. I would not expect any decency from him. My story just made me cry a little, but there will be far worse stories out there.

“We went round, both wearing face masks, knocked at the door and stood as far back as we could to the garden gate to say happy Christmas. It was sad. My daughter and I visit every Christmas with flowers, cake and wine. It could have been the very last time I saw them.

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“It was really cold and it made me cry. Then I read that the people who make these rules just ignored them and lied about it. It really angers me. And what makes me really sad is people who post comments like ‘who cares’ and ‘old news’. I care. I expect Rishi Sunak to resign. He has a moral compass but Johnson does not.”

The PM is facing calls to resign

News of the ends for the PM and Mr Sunak have sparked an angry backlash from Manchester Evening News readers. Chris Willerton wrote on Facebook: “Even if the crimes are minor, they both knowingly broke the law – and being their very own laws, they should have known them better than most. What a great example to and from the country.

“As always, it is one rule for the rich and powerful and another for us serfs. It is time for them to leave.” Our Prime Minister has broken the law,” said Julie Marie on Facebook. “It is the ultimate mockery if he doesn’t resign now.”

Donna Emmett, also reacting to our Facebook post on the story, said: “Not fit for purpose, rule makers are rule breakers. Absolute joke. For those of us that lost love ones who were unable to say a proper goodbye and have the send off they deserved, utterly disgraceful.”

“To set the rules and make folk comply with so much heartache as so many died alone is one thing. To lie repeatedly to Parliament and the population over so many breaches of the laws that you set is utterly shameful,” added Garry Clarke.

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“Get caught breaking the law in our place of work would be instant dismissal. They have a choice, we had no choice at funerals and hospitals. This country is going backwards,” said Brenda Marshall.

Denise Hutchinson said: “I had family members who couldn’t have proper send offs, nor could I even attend their funerals. Nor could I visit my mum with dementia in hospital nor accompany her in the ambulance leaving her stressed and afraid whilst these clowns flouted their own rules.”

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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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