Downing Street party: People share heartbreaking stories of how they spent last Christmas
"Mum was incredibly lonely but I just did what the government told me to"
In an uncharacteristic display at PMQs earlier today, Boris Johnson actually apologised. While he stopped short of admitting that the much-talked about Christmas party did take place at Downing Street last year, he professed to understand the anger that this scandal has provoked. But even he didn't look like he really believed what he was saying.
While the PM was blustering his way further into a black hole in parliament, PoliticsJOE spoke to some of those who lost loved ones last Christmas. While Downing Street aides sniggered, played drinking games and flouted all the rules they had imposed on the rest of us, these people were dealing with heartbreak and loss. Here are their stories.
"Mum died the night of the Christmas party"
When Jackie's mum went into hospital with anaemia - low red blood cell count or haemoglobin - in November 2020, she wasn't particularly worried.
But shortly before her mum was due to come home, one of the nurses called. She had contracted Covid. "Mum was in a terrible state. She told me over and over again she didn't want to die".
On December 18 - the night of the alleged Christmas party - Jackie spoke to her mum who was in good spirits. "I put the phone down to mum feeling positive. I thought: she's going to pull through."
But later that night, Jackie got the call from the hospital to tell her that her mum had died.
Jackie spoke to PoliticsJOE shortly after Allegra Stratton's resignation.
"I had to watch that clip several times to let their callous disregard of people who have lost loved ones sink in. The fact they all thought it was so funny - would it have been funny had they been in my shoes?"
"This was a serious breach of trust. I'm an only child. I hadn't seen my mum in 10 months because she had been shielding. I abided by the rules to protect her."
"My mum was incredibly lonely but I just did what the government told me to," she says.
"Instead of eating dad's terrible Christmas dinner, we stood at his gravestone"
Hannah's dad Shaun caught Covid a few days before the first national lockdown. He was a key worker, and the family suspect he caught the virus on public transport.
Shaun spent 42 days on a ventilator, and passed away in summer 2020. Shortly afterwards, Hannah's gran suffered the same fate.
Hannah usually lives alone but moved home just before Christmas to be with her family. "Christmas is comfort and joy, there was no joy. There will never be joy again" she says.
"Instead of eating dad's terrible Christmas dinner, we stood at his gravestone. There was an empty chair at the table and an untouched glass of wine at his placemat."
Hannah couldn't go to work today thinking about what the Tories had done.
"It baffles me they thought they had something to celebrate. Why did they deserve a party? There were over 70,000 dead."
“She sat with patients while they were dying”
Last December, Charles was at home with his wife of 25 years, Katie, when she received her positive test. She’d been jabbed only the day before. They looked at each other and knew it was too late.
By the time the Downing Street Christmas party was taking place, Katie was in hospital.
During the first wave, the care home where Katie was helping out during the pandemic stayed safe from the virus. The second time round, it spread like wildfire. She sat with patients while they were dying and held their hands and her kindness cost her, her life.
Charles, who is a care worker in the community, met Katie through work 30 years ago “We fell in love soon after” he says.
“My wife went back into the care home knowing the risks” he says. “There was never a protective ring around care homes. Local councils were forcing care homes to take hospital patients. There was no testing. There was no one else to step in and manage. It swept through the place like wildfire”.
In February, Charles lost Katie to Covid. They will never share another Christmas together.
“I’ve never been treated with such contempt in my life," he says referring to the behaviour of the government's aides on the footage. "All we did was serve the community. The front-bench must resign”.
"We played it safe thinking it would get better"
Siobhan gave birth to her daughter in an emergency C-section at 30 weeks pregnant. She was just 3lbs 3oz.
As parents, they could visit her in the NICU once a day, but not together. When her daughter was released from the hospital, Siobhan was terrified to take her out, "she was just short of 5lbs", she says.
During that time, her husband's gran contracted Covid twice.
"We spent Christmas faced with the horrible decision of whether to chance trying to arrange a meet between my daughter and her great grandma. We played it safe thinking it would get better but she died in February."
She never got to meet their daughter.
"It's been a shambles. Vulnerable people will suffer again" she says.