The unfolding government crisis over an alleged Christmas party at Downing Street during lockdown last year has gripped social media watchers, especially after the emergence of a video showing aides laughing and joking about it. But beyond the jokes, there have been searing messages comparing the idea of a No 10 staff party with the experiences people were having by following lockdown rules.
Many were keen to point out that it was the first time the new No 10 briefing room, constructed with much fanfare and at a cost of £2.6m, had provided real value to the taxpayer.
That very expensive tv briefing room has finally come into its own
— Ayesha Hazarika (@ayeshahazarika) December 7, 2021
Once used by the prime minister to watch the latest James Bond movie, the media suite had been intended to host daily press briefings featuring Allegra Stratton, who will now mostly be remembered for starring in a pretend one.
One review of her performance featured Kathryn Hahn as Agnes Harkness in the Marvel TV show WandaVision, which rapidly became internet shorthand for when someone isn’t telling the truth, and knows that you know they aren’t telling the truth.
— thedeathofbuckley (@deathofbuckley) December 8, 2021
This image from Succession cropped up a lot too. No spoilers – but if you know, you know.
We now go live to Allegra Stratton: pic.twitter.com/pFLAfaG21P
— E.H.Jom Gabbar (@EddieHenryJames) December 7, 2021
There was speculation about what it would mean for Boris Johnson’s leadership, given the Conservative party’s history of removing leaders they fear have become a liability.
I always expected Johnson to be toppled by his Party, I just didn’t expect it to be a Christmas one.
— Matt Green (@mattgreencomedy) December 7, 2021
And there were also plenty of suggestions on how the Labour party should capitalise on the row.
If I was Labour, I would call them The Christmas Party and I would never stop doing it.
— rufus jones (@rufusjones1) December 7, 2021
It was already clear on Tuesday evening that the story had changed from a Westminster bubble” issue to one that had cut through as soon as it featured in a segment from Ant and Dec on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … last night.
— I'm A Celebrity... (@imacelebrity) December 7, 2021
The video has been watched about 5m times on social media, not including the audience of the ITV show. And it allowed people to point out what an unlikely turn of events it was.
You can send one message to your 1994 self…
Me: PJ and Duncan are going to bring down the government…
— Tommy the Northener (@FootieRealist) December 7, 2021
On Wednesday, ITV continued to pile on the social media pressure, with the Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray making an appeal for any Conservative MP to come and fill the vacant Westminster studio seat on the show after the health secretary, Sajid Javid, cancelled his media appearances on Wednesday morning.
'Anybody from the Conservative party, any MP who feels it is their duty to address the 140,000 people who lost family members in the hospital who followed the rules.'@susannareid100 & @adilray question why no Govt Ministers are available this morning to answer your questions. pic.twitter.com/tt5uPRR5WP
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) December 8, 2021
From Dictionary Corner, Countdown’s Susie Dent can always be relied on to provide her oblique commentary on the events of the day.
Phrase of the day, from the 16th century, is ‘give someone the bauble’: to play them for a sucker or fool.
— Susie Dent 💙 (@susie_dent) December 8, 2021
On a more serious note there were photographic comparisons of Downing Street staff laughing at the mock press conference with medical staff in the PPE they were wearing at work that day.
One image appeared again and again, with people comparing the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral and observing social distancing rules, to the alleged behaviour of staff at Downing Street.
Her Majesty the Queen sat alone at Prince Phillip’s funeral - because those were the rules.
People stayed away from care homes and hospitals during their loved one final hours - because those were the rules. pic.twitter.com/oSbrBnr1sK
— Shaun Davies (@CllrShaunDavies) December 8, 2021
In Scotland, there were comparisons with how the Scottish Tories had reacted to a breach of Covid regulations from the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, two days after the Downing Street party was apparently held last year.
Remember the Scottish Tories demanded Nicola Sturgeon resign for not wearing a mask last year as walking out of a funeral and talking to a woman? That story ran for weeks and she apologised live on telly
— Janey Godley (@JaneyGodley) December 7, 2021
The stories are unverified, but they speak to grief and the disruption in people’s lives that the video and the party – not just at No 10 as alleged, but also a gathering at the education department – belittled.
We weren’t allowed to see my Dad in his care home last Christmas. In January he had to go to hospital where he caught Covid. He died in February. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel watching that video. Just grief, fury and tears.
— Alice Grant (@alicegrant) December 7, 2021
My mother-in-law died of Covid in June 2020 so last Christmas was the first one my father-in-law, aged 94, had been alone after 50 years of marriage. He rang us in mid December to say he'd better spend Christmas alone as it was against the rules for him to come to us.
— Hilary Marchant (@HilaryMarchant) December 7, 2021
And there were many, many more.