Coronavirus stole something special and telling myself others are having it worse is no comfort - Euan McColm

The message arrived late on the 23rd and my heart sank. The 13-year-old had tested positive for Covid and she and her wee brother wouldn’t be making their usual Christmas Day visit.

Fortunately, she’s a fit and healthy girl and, beyond a sore throat - which she initially put down to “screaming" at her brother the night before her test - seems to be well enough.

In common, I’m sure, with many of you, Christmas hasn’t turned out as I hoped and it’s tough.

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It has been another difficult Christmas for so many Scots. Picture: GettyIt has been another difficult Christmas for so many Scots. Picture: Getty
It has been another difficult Christmas for so many Scots. Picture: Getty
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I delivered the kids’ presents on Christmas Eve and, between writing the first and second paragraphs of this column, watched them open them over FaceTime.

Of course, in the great scheme of things, this is hardly the Christmas from hell. We mightn’t be together but others - vulnerable people dealing with coronavirus infection, frontline NHS workers - are having a considerably crappier time, I’m certain.

But, though I am able to step back from my situation and put it in perspective, I'd be lying if I told you it’s not agonising. Coronavirus has stolen something special and no amount of telling myself others are having it worse is a comfort, right now.

Almost two years after the coronavirus pandemic was recognised, there can’t be many of us who feel they haven’t had to make considerable sacrifices.

For me, the worst was a period of more than three months last year when I had no physical contact with my kids. You will have had your own challenging circumstances to deal with, I’m sure. We are - exhausting anti-vaxxers and “think-of-the-children” ditch-the-maskers, aside - truly all in this one together.

Again, I can see that others have had things worse. I’ve been spared the loss of family members to this damnable virus. Many of you have not been so fortunate.

But this is not a competition. We are all, I think, entitled to feel, we have paid some kind of price over the past couple of years. Some - those denied the opportunity to hold the hand of a dying loved one, for example - bear wounds that might never fully heal.

We’ve made the sacrifices requested of us by governments across the UK because of a collective belief that special measures are required to calm the spread of Covid. It turns out there is such a thing as common sense.

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Before the business of politics was briefly suspended for Christmas, the only thing anyone was talking about was the series of revelations that staff at 10 Downing Street and across a number of government departments broke Coronavirus restrictions by holding a series of Christmas parties while the country was in lockdown last year.

Questioned on the matter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lied and evaded up until the point when it became clear that genuine public fury meant this was a subject that wouldn’t be going away. The PM then called for an inquiry into whether the illegal events - of which we had all seen incriminating video footage and photographs - had taken place.

In politics, it is best to have a crisis as close to a parliamentary recess as possible. A hot issue can cool quickly when political scrutiny is suspended.

And so, the timing of the Christmas party revelations was as good as it could have been for Johnson. But, unlike past government crises, this one is going to come roaring back as soon as the House of Commons reconvenes in the New Year.

Yet again, a number of us will have seen Christmas devastated by the pandemic. We are, therefore, fully entitled to remain furious that so many senior political figures decided the rules which they expected us to follow simply didn’t apply to them.

Confronted with evidence of their disregard for the rules, the instinct is to a feel foolish for adhering to them. This is a mistake. We should no more feel foolish for locking down as requested than we should feel foolish for abiding by any law.

We should, however, feel the same contempt for those who broke the law as we do for any criminal.

It may be that Johnson truly believes he can leave all of this behind him but it’s difficult to see how.

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When the Commons reconvenes, the impact of coronavirus on their constituents’ lives will continue to be the number one issue facing MPs. And while that remains the case, opposition politicians will have to do little more than remind voters of last year’s Christmas Parties for it to rear up as a problem for Johnson.

In the long term, it may be the scandal for which he is best remembered.

There will, in time, be full public inquiries into the handling of the coronavirus crisis by administrations across the United Kingdom. Although we can’t predict the outcomes of these processes, we already know that mistakes have been made - the release of Covid-infected patients from hospitals to care homes, for example - and rules broken. We know that these inquiries won’t be easy for any political leader.

As we drill down into the facts of the pandemic and weigh the effectiveness of the political response, the fact last year’s lockdown-breaking parties took place will hang over proceedings. There will never be a moment when it’s not appropriate to talk about how the Prime Minister and his most senior staff treated the law with contempt.

The new year will begin with Boris Johnson’s unfitness for office still firmly at the top of the political agenda.

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