As revelations continue to emerge about parties in Downing Street during lockdown, Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western reveals the pain and anguish constituents went through at the time, in his Observer column.
BORIS Johnson has been Prime Minister for some of the darkest years in our country’s history.
Many of his decisions are, at best, questionable. His Government’s record of cronyism is a matter of record. But it is the duplicity and the double standards that now anger the public.
And opinion polls now show the public wants him to resign.
Like so many in May 2020, my constituent Jill couldn’t visit her father during his final weeks because of a national lockdown at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She saw her father – who served as a WWII naval commander – for the last time in March before he died alone in hospital months later in July.
Another, Claire, was unable to visit her father-in-law who passed away on May 20.
It was on that date that the Prime Minister is understood to have hosted a Bring Your Own Booze party in the Number 10 Downing Street garden – five days after being pictured at a busy wine and cheese event in the same place.
The invitations for the BYOB were sent to 100 people and encouraged everyone to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ – something every single other Brit was unable to do.
Lockdown rules dictated that you should not leave your home or visit anyone else – and only be outside on your own, with one other person, or with those you lived with.
On May 20 nearly 1,200 people were fighting for their lives as Covid gripped ICUs up and down the country – and 328 people had died when the clock struck midnight. It is galling to think the party could have continued till after that moment.
At the end of that day, more than 35,000 people had already died in the UK over the course of the pandemic.
To Claire, Jill and thousands of others who could not be with their loved ones as they died, to the NHS workers who saved his life, to all those who followed the rules to save others, the behaviour of Boris Johnson and those around him is the ultimate insult.
This coming year working people in the UK are facing a serious cost of living crisis.
Council Tax is set to rise following the Government’s disastrous National Insurance increase. This will cost the average Briton hundreds of pounds extra, according to forecasts.
Housing costs are rising and – the biggest pressure of all – energy prices could increase by more than £600 with the imposition of a new price cap in April.
The outcome of recent governments’ failures: 4,000 households in Warwick and Leamington are now in fuel poverty (8.9%). Labour is calling for VAT to be cut to help households.
But all costs are rising. The cost of a weekly shop could increase by tens of pounds as inflation continues to rise. I fear it will reach seven per cent.
The government talks of a high wage economy, but wage rises are either lower or non-existent – most people are facing real-term loss of income. How on earth are families going to cope?
They won’t. YouGov polling shows one in ten cannot afford £5 extra per month and a third can’t survive £25 per month rises.
The Government needs to get a grip. It could start by boosting Universal Credit payments, cutting VAT on energy bills and insulating UK homes. It could also contribute funding to local government to avoid huge Council Tax rises.
On a related note, we have seen how the exorbitant cost of rents and stifling business rates affect our high streets in Warwick and Leamington, with Tesco raising prices, M&S closing down and now House of Fraser doing the same.
We need, as Labour has called for, significant business rates reform and support for our high streets – to fend off any other closures or price rises in our shops.
House of Fraser was a jewel in the crown of the Parade and Leamington’s shopping offer. We cannot afford to lose another major retailer.