Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak have finally received their dues from the Partygate saga, having been issued with laughably low fixed penalty notices (£50 apiece) by the Metropolitan police.
Whilst this is hardly likely to hurt their finances (Sunak is believed to have a net worth of at least £200m), presumably the fines are meant to stand as a symbolic rebuke to their behaviour.
There is no shortage of examples of Britain’s capitalist politicians engaging in acts of blatant corruption and decadence whilst sticking two fingers up at working-class families barely managing to scrape by. But what has made this particular case so enraging for the masses is its sheer brazenness, which seems shameless even by ruling-class standards.
Politicians meeting up to have a fiesta – on multiple occasions – whilst ordinary people were all but forcibly locked into their homes – prevented from seeing their friends and families, prevented from working, prevented from accessing health care and other vital services. If this had been put forward as the plot idea for a movie it could well have been rejected as over-the-top and unrealistic!
In addition to the outrage, there is an undeniable element of feeling tricked. The population at large was led to believe that enforced near-total self-isolation for months on end was necessary to ‘stop the spread’ of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the very politicians who were lecturing and hectoring the public and imposing these draconian restrictions were themselves not taking them remotely seriously.
If anyone tries to make the argument that these were politicians, not scientists, they can be pointed in the direction of one Prof Neil Ferguson, the man whose research predicting half a million immanent deaths if the government didn’t impose a national lockdown immediately did not prevent him from flouting those same restrictions to meet with his lover. Those working-class citizens who followed lockdown guidance to the letter could be forgiven for reconsidering their beliefs about whether their enormous personal sacrifices were necessary after all.
Indeed, if we had an economic system based on planning for the ever-increasing needs of society, none of this would have been necessary. In countries with socialist governments such as China and DPR Korea, a pre-planned mass testing strategy combined with localised and temporary quarantine orders where cases are detected has kept deaths dramatically lower than in western countries, despite the western nations having imposed much harsher restrictions on individual liberty than the supposedly ‘totalitarian’ socialist states.
The unpreparedness of the NHS to cope with a pandemic had been known by the British government since Exercise Cygnus was held in 2016. But those report findings were buried because long-term planning is anathema to a capitalist system built on the lust for immediate profit and the voodoo economics of leaving everything to the ‘hidden hand of the market’. Acting on the report would essentially have meant reversing the ongoing project of healthcare privatisation – and so it was ignored.
The sight of Johnson, Sunak and co getting away with a trifling fine after an ‘investigation’ characterised by foot-dragging on the part of the police and constant lies from the defendants, when juxtaposed against the relentless persecution of working-class quarantine violators by the police, renders further comment superfluous.
The class nature of British society, the us-and-them reality, has never been clearer.