Credit: AJ Duncan

Fighting over Partygate won’t solve the cost-of-living-crisis

By Grace Graham-Taylor

While the Tory party remains embroiled in the Partygate scandal, the cost of basic amenities is spiralling out of control.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that Boris Johnson is about one more awkward photograph away from losing his position as prime minister. Across the major news outlets the scandal known as “Partygate” continues to rage, almost two months after the story first broke and nearly two years after the first of these infractions took place. 

To briefly summarise the story so far, on 30 November, 2021 the Daily Mirror published an article alleging that Downing Street had played host to a series of parties in the fall of 2020, right as the nation was entering its second phase of lockdowns. This was followed by a video, courtesy of ITV, which showed members of Johnson’s staff joking about a Christmas party in the same year. 

Since then, the flood of evidence has been almost ceaseless – a total of 16 social events are now known to have taken place between May 2020 and April 2021. On 14 January of this year, Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the Prime Minister’s resignation, and so far 15 conservative backbenchers have echoed his demand. Johnson is currently being investigated by the Metropolitan police for breach of lockdown laws, and an internal investigation led by civil servant Sue Gray has criticised No 10 for, among other things, “failures of leadership and judgement”. 

Johnson is clearly guilty of breaking his own rules, and many people are understandably outraged, particularly those who have been forced to watch their loved ones degenerate or die alone due to Covid-19 distancing. Government hypocrisy is a serious issue, but at a time when the nation is facing a deepening cost of living crisis, does spending so much government and media time focusing on whether Boris Johnson attended a party or not reflect the real needs of the British people? Short answer: no.

“At a time when the nation is facing a deepening cost of living crisis, does spending so much government and media time focusing on whether Boris Johnson attended a party or not reflect the real needs of the British people?”

At present, Britain is facing a major rise in costs across all areas of life. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit, inflation is at its highest in decades, with retail and grocery prices soaring. According to a recent YouGov poll, around 80% of Britons have noticed an increase in the price of basic amenities in the past few months, with six in ten of those already struggling to make ends meet saying they expect their finances will continue to worsen this year. Concurrently, the ongoing hike in energy bills are leaving some people worried about heating their own homes, whilst fossil fuels giants like Shell and BP are raking in multi-billion-dollar profits. 

Energy price hikes will be most punishing on those with the least financial security. The Resolution Foundation, a British think tank based in London, predicts that the poorest members of society will experience energy costs rising from 8.5% to 12.5% of their total household budget – a proportion three times that of the wealthiest Britons. The increasing cost of basic amenities will undoubtedly affect Glasgow University students as well. Students already strapped for cash will feel the squeeze of increasing energy prices and grocery costs, but student loans will not rise accordingly. This is on top of Glasgow rent prices surging by 25% between 2021 and 2022. For those of us lucky enough to have parents able to provide financial support, there will be some respite from the mounting costs of getting a good education. For those students who come from lower income families, the effects could be truly disastrous. 

Meanwhile, pressures to deal with the cost of living crisis are mounting; on Saturday, 12 February protestors gathered in at least 25 towns around the nation to express their anger at the spiralling cost of living. The chaos of Partygate has also given fresh energy to the SNP’s Independence campaign, with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branding Johnson a “walking advert for Scottish independence.” If the government doesn’t get a grip soon, they may end up unwittingly dissolving the United Kingdom, on top of everything else – all over whether or not the Prime Minister was “ambushed by a cake”. 

Though Johnson’s behaviour is decidedly egregious, there are clearly far more important things at stake than the Prime Minister’s social calendar. The more time that is spent on this scandal, the less time there is to deal with the problems that are tangibly affecting people across the country. The blame lies not with the shadow Labour government or the devolved institutions (who, in opposing Johnson, are just doing their job), but with the Tory party, whose infighting continues to paralyse parliament. Subjecting the country to a game of political points-scoring whilst citizens are worrying about whether they will be able to warm their homes displays an incredible ignorance to the difficulties that ordinary people are facing.


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