Why #Partygate cannot be forgotten: letter to Sheryll Murray

Empty wine bottles” by PeterThoeny is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Dear Sheryll Murray

I noted a tweet by Kwasi Kwarteng

and other Conservative ministers today telling us, in effect, to move on from the series of events known as Partygate.

He said that the government had important things to get on with.  

Reflecting on a selection of current crises: the cost-of-living crisis was created under this government; the crisis in the NHS was created under this government; the Northern Ireland crisis was created under this government.

For a government to create stress, then relieve some of that stress to detract from some other act of abuse is governance by narcissistic coercive control. Many of us can see straight through it.

Just because there are other issues to solve does not mean what happened in 10 Downing Street during the most intense period of the pandemic can simply be forgotten.

Let me summarise some failings of the Conservative government in its handling of the pandemic and how that impacted me and my family. It may explain why saying sorry and paying a few £50 fines are not enough.

  1. Lessons from Operation Cygnus were not learned, leaving the NHS and Public Health under resourced when the pandemic hit.

                The government ignored warnings from China and Italy and locked down late.

How this affected me: I caught Covid in 2020 via someone who flew through Heathrow. I could not get a test. I have Long Covid symptoms.

  • We were told a ring of protection was put around care homes whereas, in fact, people were discharged into care homes with Covid. As a result, thousands died in care homes. Carers were left without adequate PPE.

How this affected me: I had weeks of extreme stress worrying about my mother in a care home. Details of distressing deaths in care homes were coming out in the press. Carers were not trained or resourced to deal with this level of care.  I wrote to you at that time, in April 2020, asking if there were enough palliative care drugs in our community; if community nurses would be available to administer the drugs and if carers could have access to regular testing and proper PPE.

  • In May 2020, whilst a briefing was held at Number 10, people at a pre-arranged party in the background were asked to keep the noise down.

How this affected me: My heart broke not seeing my mother for the summer of 2020 other than once a week, at the most, outdoors. We knew we were doing the right thing, but it stings to see that during this time Number 10 were not even following their own rules and partying literally at the same time as telling us what to do. Yes, that stings.

If I knew that our government was genuinely doing all it could at the time to bring the pandemic and that period of prolonged (for those in care) isolation to an end, the pain of not seeing my mum for what turned out to be her last Summer would have been eased, Instead, it was exacerbated.

  • October 2020, the government were advised to have a short, sharp lockdown to mitigate the Delta wave. This did not happen and Delta took off.

How this affected me:

On 5 November, the date when the lockdown was finally announced, it was too late for my mum. She caught Covid in hospital that day and was removed from the orthopaedic ward recovering from a hip operation and placed in quarantine for two weeks.

The hospital was extremely stretched. They were creating “red” wards at the same time as trying to deal with the new wave of Covid. They did not have communication systems in place. After two days of not getting through to the ward, I drove to the hospital and stood in the foyer in tears. I spoke to a brilliant senior nurse who helped me communicate some sort of care plan for my mum. My mum was an extremely vulnerable, late-stage dementia patient who could not carry any mental continuity or emotional comfort with her. Her mental state would have been like a person with mental capacity being placed in solitary confinement whilst in a post operative state. The staff did their best but there was a shortage of staff and no continuity.

Staff were being pulled from other areas of the hospital. There were no telephones in the patient side of the wards and so staff had to get out of their PPE to get to the phones. When I did get through, staff had stayed late to communicate. There were no televisions on the wards. There were no radios. My mum would have been in a personal hell. I knew this. Those days were the worst of my life.

Mum did not die of Covid. She got out of hospital, but mistakes had been made with her care. She was physically in a bad way and mentally traumatised. I am not angry with individual staff who did their best. I am angry with the under-resourcing of the NHS and the fact that the wave could have been mitigated if scientific advice had been followed in October.

The care home did an incredible job settling her down, but mum was able to share her trauma with me. I will never forget it.

My mum died a few weeks later in December. She died in the care home, and I could be with her. However, the last few weeks of her life were extremely traumatic. Trauma caused by isolation with late-stage dementia on an under resourced Covid ward. Covid that she caught in hospital due to Delta being allowed to sweep through the country.

She died the day after two raucous parties happened in 10 Downing Street on December 17 and 18. This was their response to the Delta wave. This is how seriously they took it.

So, as I said, sorry is not enough.

You will probably send me a standard reply. This is how you have responded to every one of my well-researched and thoughtful letters sent to you since 2018. You will probably tell me to move on.

Here’s the thing. You cannot tell someone with grief to move on. Grief does not work like that. Grief is an expression of love and love is not switched off. For millions of people in this country, Partygate is now hammered onto that grief, if not intrinsically entwined. So, telling people to move on from Partygate is the equivalent of telling a bereaved person to get over their grief. It is not going to happen just because you and Boris Johnson wish it to go away, nor because a few ministers send out formulaic tweets.

In case you do decide to step away from your standard response, I have a question.

In the Sue Gray report, Sue Gray states that the party in Boris Johnson’s flat (the ABBA party) was not investigated by her because the Metropolitan Police were going to investigate. There has not been anything publicly released about that and so it seems a bit of a stitch-up. If we are going to trust the police investigation, we need to know that it was thorough. Has the Met Police specifically investigated the party in Boris Johnson’s flat?

Johnson and the Conservative party will probably think they have got away with all of this. But a shift has happened. Even if you cannot see it, it is like pressure building between tectonic plates, beneath the earth’s crust.

The pressure is imperceptible, but it is there and one day a momentous shift will happen.

When it does, this country will be one where people come first, and our governance will be one based on honour and justice.

You have a choice to be on the right side of history. I doubt you will be, going by your voting record and your staunch support of Johnson but you do have a choice.

I am writing this letter so that there is a record. One day someone might find this record. It will form a small piece of the archive and I can hold my head up high that I did something right in a toxic atmosphere despite years of gaslighting and dismissal from my representative in parliament and those who are meant to protect and serve us.

Johnson should go. You could call for that. I am stating now as one of your constituents that this is my wish. My dear, brave mum would cheer me on.

Yours sincerely

Jane Stevenson