Tom Harwood: Sir Keir’s beer isn’t the biggest breach of restrictions but it is directly comparable to Number 10 staff in the Downing Street garden with drinks
An image that had been floating around the internet unverified for the last couple of months has finally been stood up in the last few days.
Now, an image that had been floating around the internet unverified for the last couple of months has finally been stood up in the last few days.
This picture shows Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer, drinking at an event with colleagues on 30 April 2021. The same month as those Number 10 staff leaving do’s, and the same month that the Queen sat alone at the funeral of Prince Philip.
The rules across England at the time clearly stated that “You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.”
Well Labour has now admitted this photograph of Sir Keir Starmer is genuine, and that this timeline is correct.
Confronted with the photograph yesterday, what did Sir Keir have to say to excuse this boozy indoor event?
‘It was a work event.’
Now where have I heard that one before?
This excuse was strikingly familiar, not just to those who listened to the Prime Minister’s painful statement last Wednesday, but also to those who know how so many in so many industries across the country had quote unquote ‘work meetings’ last year that were suspiciously heavy on alcohol and low on work.
And I think this is a fundamental truth at risk of being missed in this hyper moralising holier than thou discussion. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And let us not pretend for one second that compliance was absolute. From anyone.
The ever changing often counterintuitive pettifogging smorgasbord of rules were at points farcical. At times you would have needed a law degree to follow exactly what liberties we had and which had been taken away.
Although in the case of Keir Starmer QC even that wasn’t enough to help him.
For the rest of us, clearly the country was not as quite as angelic as we often pretend.
Whether it’s the packed parks and beaches, generous over-interpretation of support bubbles, or heaven forfend people sitting down on park benches rather than sticking to their one state authorised hour of exercise each day.
Or how about those scenes of railway stations, crammed like never before with people rushing to see family, the very night Chris Whitty told the country to unpack bags and stay put for Christmas.
Whether it was undue mingling at the pub, or saying your group was one household when that might not always have been the case. Whether it was not always scanning those irritating QR codes, or leaving a mask off at the cinema.
Whether it was going the wrong way down a one way system, or simply being slightly closer than two meters apart.
Why do we think it was that the Amber list system of ‘scouts honour isolation’ for arrivals into the country imported the virus so much, whereas the red list of enforcing that isolation did not? If we genuinely believed Amber list arrivals were quarantining, the red list would have been redundant.
On that note, why do we think it was that the early tier systems did not work? Perhaps it wasn’t particularly adhered to.
And why do we reckon that there were so many university outbreaks? Not a single student I’ve spoken to followed the prison-like rules they were ludicrously expected to follow.
So back to Sir Keir’s beer.
Is it the biggest breach of restrictions in the world? No. But is it directly comparable to that famous photograph of Number 10 staff sitting in the Downing Street garden with drinks whist they claimed to be at work? Absolutely.
And comparable to what I would venture to say the majority of the country has done at some point accidentally or otherwise over these last two years. Undoubtably.
Perhaps it’s time to say that when such inhumane and ever changing rules roll out over such a long period of time, this stuff is inevitable.
Perhaps the fault here is in those who designed, implemented, and indeed voted for the more ridiculous variety of restrictions that we have been subjected to across this pandemic.
Clearly lockdown was necessary at the peaks of this virus. Clearly it saved lives. But did the ensuing pettifogging post-lockdown restrictions have to go on for so long and in such peculiar particularity. I think that in time we will come to reason that no, they did not.
And for that politicians of all stripes are to blame.