Opinion by Hannah Brady
Updated: Thu, 13 Jan 2022 14:41:22 GMT
Editor's Note: Hannah Brady is a member of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, a campaign group calling for a rapid inquiry into the government's handling on the pandemic. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.
On May 20, 2020, we registered my father's death from Covid-19. Remember that date. It turned out to be important.
His name was Shaun Brady. He was a proud factory worker at the Heinz Kraft plant in Wigan, in the North West of England. He was brilliant, honest and kind. He didn't think much of himself, but we thought the world of him, and he thought the world of us.
Dad was only 55. He loved cooking healthy food and went to the gym three or four times a week. But when the pandemic hit, he stuck to the lockdown rules. However, as a designated key worker, Dad had to keep attending his workplace in person. So even though his employer put in place measures to make work safer, Dad had to take public transport into work each day. And he got Covid-19.
Dad fought the virus. But on April 2, 2020, his health deteriorated to the point he was taken to hospital by ambulance. A few days later he went into a coma. Gradually, the virus destroyed his lungs, then his kidneys, heart, pancreas, brain. On May 16, doctors and our family painfully agreed that the only thing we could do for him, to thank him for decades of love and care, was to let him go peacefully.
A year and a half later, I found myself sitting in the Downing Street garden, talking to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
I and four other members of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, the campaign group that I'm part of, were telling Johnson about the loved ones we'd lost to the pandemic. Every detail of why we loved them, and every detail of how they died.
I showed the Prime Minister a picture of Dad, and Johnson looked me in the eye and said he had done everything he could to protect my father. He told us that the huge guerrilla memorial that we and many others created for our loved ones on a wall opposite parliament on the bank of the Thames, was a strong candidate to become the UK's official memorial for the pandemic. And he told us that by Christmas a chairperson would be appointed to the public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic. I guess you could say he told us a lot of what we wanted to hear. He said he was sorry for our loss, which meant very little, as it changed nothing.
What the Prime Minister didn't tell us was that in that same garden at Downing Street, on May 20, 2020, he had been to a party with dozens of other members of his staff. One of his most senior team members had emailed staff telling them to bring their own booze so they could make the most of the lovely weather, and Johnson joined them for 25 minutes. That's five minutes longer than Dad's socially-distanced outdoor funeral service.
So only a few days after I and my sister decided to turn Dad's ventilator off, on the very day his death certificate was signed, Boris Johnson and his team were breaking their own rules and celebrating. On a day when both the government and the police were reminding us that they would prosecute us if we had a picnic or went for a walk with more than one person outside our household -- and the vast majority of us were sticking to those rules -- the Prime Minister was at a party. Apparently one person walking round the back of Downing Street that evening heard the loud noise coming from the garden. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick.
Over the past month-and-a-half, I've had to endure revelation after revelation about party after party leaking from Downing Street. Secret Santas, wine and cheese meetings, after-work drinks. It has made me feel so angry, I cannot describe it. Each revelation opens up that grief -- and betrayal -- all over again.
The country heard my story on Wednesday, when in the House of Commons the opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer asked Johnson about what had happened to my Dad. But there are so, so many people like me. Some of them are even MPs.
Johnson has been forced to apologize for "misjudgements that may have been made" -- in short, his staff's misjudgements, not his. It's not really an apology at all, when you're blaming the people below you. He says he's taking responsibility, but he also keeps saying he can't answer difficult questions because there's an inquiry going on. On Wednesday Johnson recognized the public's rage over the party scandal, telling the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions that he believed the gathering to be a work event, but with hindsight conceded he should have sent attendees back inside.
Most Britons at the time were not going to mass gatherings like this -- except the few we heard about in the news after the police shut them down. The hypocrisy of the prime minister sticks in my throat. It shows there's one rule for him, and another for the rest of us. As long as Johnson is in that job, he's undermining the legitimacy of the rules, and he's a threat to the safety of the country. On his watch, the United Kingdom was the first country in Europe to pass 150,000 Covid deaths.
My Dad stuck to the rules and died. Johnson meanwhile, broke the rules, very nearly died from Covid-19 himself, and more than 18 months later is still in charge of the country. Dad wasn't given a second chance. Johnson's leadership meanwhile, has been given too many.