Boris Johnson's bunch have betrayed their contempt for us all, even the Queen – Christine Jardine MP

It was undoubtedly one of, if not the, most defining pictures of the pandemic. A great grandmother sitting alone at the funeral of the husband who had been at her side for more than 70 years.

It did not matter that this great grandmother was Her Majesty the Queen. She faced her grief with dignity in the same heartbroken solitude that so many people in the country experienced.

That picture spoke to us all and reflected the pain of so many. It told us that the Queen was in this with all of us.

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Sadly, the same cannot be said for many of those in her government. There is a group around Boris Johnson which seems somehow to think they are not governed by the same rules as the rest of us.

That they are entitled to choose which of the rules they set that they shall follow. They are not. None of us are.

And the behaviour that we have learned of over the past few days has not only shocked their political opposition but embarrassed their supporters.

We thought we had heard the worst when we learned that they partied in May 2020 while the rest of us were locked down at home.

That the gall of those who could tell us all to stay away from work, families and friends or only meet one person, at a distance, outdoors, had plumbed its lowest possible depth.

Queen Elizabeth sits, alone and masked, during the funeral of Prince Philip, just hours after Boris Johnson's staff partied in the basement of 10 Downing Street (Picture: Jonathan Brady/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Then we heard about the drunken parties the night before Prince Philip’s funeral. The night before that heart-breaking picture.

What added to the anger that was almost palpable at Westminster was that this disgrace was exposed at a moment when the country needs its government to focus on other things.

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We face a growing crisis in the cost of living with escalating fuel prices, record inflation and a hike in taxes.

Our health and care services are still coping with enormous pandemic induced pressure.

The country needs solutions. A way of offsetting the rocketing gas prices for households who may be forced to choose between heating and food this winter.

Businesses which are still trying to get out from under the weight of debt and lack of income from lockdown need support, a recovery strategy from the government.

On Friday, figures showed that the economy is only now recovering to where it was at the end of 2019.

But instead of plotting a way ahead the government, and Parliament. is enmeshed in trying to clear up the personal and political mess in Downing Street.

Although the unacceptable behaviour extended beyond the Prime Minister, he, as I have said before, sets the tone and carries ultimate responsibility for the behaviour of those he leads.

And regardless of whatever outlandish explanation he produces, he carries the can for what has happened.

A culture of drunken parties at the centre of government at the height of an unprecedented crisis cannot and should not have passed him by.

Like most people this past week, I have thought about where I was and what I was doing on May 20, 2020. I am one of the lucky ones.

I have friends, family and constituents who were ill, in mourning, or waiting to hear whether the loved one they could not be with to support in their last moments had passed away.

But I was able to be at home with my daughter. It was her birthday that day. There was no party.

And, as I sat in the Commons last week listening to the pathetic excuses being rolled out for the inexcusable behaviour in Downing Street, my initial shock became anger and upset.

I thought about the friend who could not be with her brother in his last moments. My fellow MP who broke down as he recounted to parliament how his mother-in- law had died alone.

Or the many, many constituents who had lost loved ones or their businesses but had followed the rules all the time.

I felt that they had all been treated with contempt by those who were elected to serve them.

And when the Prime Minister came to the despatch box and offered his rather late apology, there was little stomach anywhere in the House for what he had to say.

While the reaction from those of us on the opposite benches was perhaps predictable, it was the silent and almost tangible distaste emanating from the benches behind him which was more significant.

The parties by themselves would be bad enough.

Strip away the backdrop of the past two years and the outcry would still be ringing in their ears. One rule for them and another rule for us, whatever the rule, will forever be unacceptable.

If you’ve watched a loved one die by Facetime, or lost your job while your government parties, how could you ever trust that government again?

A government that promised: “We’ll do whatever it takes.” That told us nobody would be left behind.

I know there are many good people in the Conservative Party, among their MPs, who share the anger, embarrassment and disgust at the behaviour. They at least can put an end to it.

The Queen, regardless of political views, has been, throughout this crisis, an example and inspiration to all of us.

In being disrespectful to Her Majesty, the actions of Boris Johnson’s bunch betrayed the contempt at the heart of his government for all but themselves.

The Queen has received, rightly, an apology from Downing Street for their behaviour.

It will take more than that to heal the damage that has been done.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

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