I’m starting to get a bit annoyed about partygate. Well no, that’s a lie. I’m angry in theory. On paper I’m fuming. In real life? Meh. This whole saga has trundled on for so long now I’ve just stopped caring. I’m probably annoyed about something else. Train timetables or maybe the fact that broccoli is £1.60 in M&S.
Given how miserable the rest of us were during lockdown, those making the rules should really have done the polite thing and followed them. But then when you read the details of ‘partygate’, you can’t help but think that they weren't really enjoying themselves. A Colin the Caterpillar cake in between meetings? ‘Wine time Fridays’? Who wants to be cooped up in the office with their colleagues on a Friday evening? Didn’t they have any other friends they could sneak off and see at the end of the week? It’s what the rest of us did.
The real travesty – the real scandal – is just how sad the whole thing looks. Yesterday the Mirror released a pic of all the drinks on offer at one of these ‘events’. (Anyone who still insists on calling these ‘parties’ should really look it up). There, at the centre of the table, among the Krispy Kreme doughnuts and tubs of long-life flapjacks, is a bottle of Barefoot yellow label. Barefoot. The drink of penniless students and struggling middle-class alcoholics. The kind of drink you settle for, hiccoughing and confused, during an early morning corner shop raid. In other words, the drink of desperation.
If my government is going to be corrupt, I at least want them to do it in style. Isn’t there a Foreign Office wine cellar they can break into? A nice bottle of something from 1968 and a wheel of stilton. Maybe even an Iberico ham. What a hideous vision of institutional decline: the most powerful office in the land reduced to 2-4-1 snack offers from Tesco. And surely there are nicer rooms in Downing Street to drink in? I was hoping for something more, I don’t know, gentlemen’s club; vast leather Ottomans and civil servants chortling by the fire, maybe a decanter of port in the background. Instead, all we got was some grubby municipal office filled with Dell computers.
And the drinking isn’t the only thing that is totally low rent. Remember that garden photo of Boris, Carrie, and some other now-departed officials? They’re sat around on the terrace of perhaps the most historically significant house in the country and all I can think about is one thing: the appalling garden furniture. Only a civil servant could order a table and chairs that hideous. A glass top? Not wood or cast iron? I’m pretty sure it’s made of that awful plastic weave masquerading as bamboo.
Remember, this is the official garden furniture of the official residence of the official Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And yet somewhere buried deep in the Cabinet Office vaults will be a cost justification document laying out how much was spent and whether it can be considered good value for the taxpayer. Imagine some foreign dignitary sitting drinking Echo Falls on that B&Q monstrosity. Because there’s every chance they already have. A country whose empire spanned the entire globe just over a hundred years ago now can’t even put on a decent spread. It’s humiliating.
Look, I obviously don’t want to pay for it. My taxes have already gone up enough thank you very much. But someone really ought to jazz it up a bit, enforce some standards. Hopefully we’ll get a picture of Boris and Carrie’s flat when the Sue Gray report comes out. At least that’s supposed to be conspicuously vulgar. Better that than average wine in an average office drunk by average middle-manager types. Can’t we have a bit of glamour in government? They may have been acting like they’re better than all of us. But judging by the standard of their ‘parties’, that’s all it was. Acting.