A Devon woman who is suing the government over its handling of the pandemic has accused the prime minister of double standards over the “disgusting” Downing Street Christmas party and says he should now resign.
Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com
Dr Cathy Gardner brought the case following the death of her father Michael Gibson, at the age 88 in a care home in April 2020, with probable Covid.
Her comments echoed widespread condemnation after details emerged of the staff party which apparently took place against lockdown rules in December 2020 when indoor social gatherings were banned.
Dr Gardner, from Sidmouth, said the apparent holding of the party showed a similar disregard for the rules as when the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings was accused of breaching the lockdown.
She described holding the party as “disgusting” at a time when hundreds of people were dying daily from Covid. She said it showed a disregard for the rules in a culture at No. 10 which the prime minister was responsible for.
Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday he has ordered an investigation and said he was “furious” about footage apparently showing aides joking about the party.
The prime minister apologised “unreservedly” for the offence caused by the video obtained by ITN of his then-spokeswoman Allegra Stratton at a mock press conference.
But he insisted he had been repeatedly assured “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
Dr Gardner said: “To me, it just confirms the view of their appalling handling of the pandemic, and their contempt for the public – failing to tell the truth, failing to admit what happened.
“It is not the first time, it happened with the Barnard Castle fiasco, when Boris Johnson defended Dominic Cummings, which blew massive holes through public confidence and public support and adherence to the rules.
“This is the same thing. A few months later apparently they were holding several parties, and the prime minister is responsible for what happens at No. 10.
“It is just disgusting, at a time when so many people were still dying day after day.
“They have never properly considered the impact on the public. It just seems that Johnson just treats it all as a bit of a game, and if he can duck and dive, he will.”
Dr Gardner said there was apparently a culture at Downing Street which meant people felt able to ignore the rules.
She added: “If he has staff who were prepared to lie to him about what happened, it also says something about the culture.
“He has changed the story according to what gets leaked, that he has to answer.
“It is just time for him to go. He should resign, because how can he seriously expect anybody to listen to him telling them what they should do, when he doesn’t show any respect for it? It has been going on for such a long time.”
Dr Gardner’s legal challenge claims that the UK Government, and NHS England, unlawfully failed to do enough to protect the right to life of vulnerable care home residents in the early response to the virus.
The case is due to be heard in the high court early in the spring 2021, two years after her father died. His cause of death is recorded as “probable Covid” as he was not tested for the virus.
Dr Gardner, who represents Sidmouth Town on East Devon Council and is a member of the East Devon Alliance, has raised more than £130,000 with a public appeal to fund the joint legal challenge, but the campaign is still short of the total amount needed.