Wine and cheese over GCSEs! By Monique

As everyone will be aware the past two years have been filled with unease and a lack of educational stability; from entire year groups ending up in self-isolation on an almost periodic basis, all the way to the horrendous way the government handled the Summer 2020 exam period and the blatant flip-flopping by (now) ex-Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson over whether or not to use teacher assessed grades (TAGs).


Not only was this time of unease a time of stress for students and teachers alike it may have also been the first warning sign of the government’s blatant disregard for the safety and care of school children. Williamson, in a statement shortly after the government’s decision (August 18th 2020) said I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.” These words lack any substantial sympathy and fall especially flat to those of us who were at the forefront of the entire debacle; wondering night and day as to how we would handle the next step in our lives on top of the existential dread and suffocating reality we were trapped in, of watching people around us dying with (at the time) little hope in sight whilst our government fumbled about.


If personal feelings on the matter were not simply enough the fact that in recent times the Conservative party’s failings and lack of care for the British people were exposed only adds kindling to the fire.


Whilst the most well-known failing and hypocrisy of the government is the Conservative’s Christmas party (18th December 2020) the now infamous wine and cheese party was a complete disregard of the nation’s trust and was seen as a laughing matter which is only aggravated by the footage of Allegra Stratton (Boris Johnson’s then aide) laughing with the Prime Minister and other officials about the party on the eighteenth and in her official resignation video attempted to downplay the event by referring to it as a “business meeting” but also ultimately admitted that it wasn’t “socially distanced”.


This party in particular is the most known, however the Conservatives had broken their own laws before and after this party time and time again. The first big party (that once more showcases the Tory love of wine) was the May 15th 2020 wine and pizza garden party. This event took place during a crucial moment for the government, in the middle of exam decisions and restrictions talks; and yet the government ignored all this and took it upon themselves to drink into the night – however Boris Johnson denied his involvement in the matter despite it taking place in Downing Street’s garden and later when pictures appeared claimed that he had simply been present for a work meeting and he and his family had retired at 7 PM. Meaning the Prime Minister’s excuse was that his party commandeered the private residence of the country’s Prime Minister, and then proceeded to overstay their welcome and drink into the night without any intervention from the large police presence in Downing Street.


Then, Dominic Cumming’s (Boris Johnson’s Chief Advisor from 2019-2020) “lifted the lid” on another Conservative’s gathering on the 20th May 2020. Number 10 did not attempt to deny Johnson’s attendance but also didn’t comment further on the MP’s disregard of the strict covid restrictions that their government put in place.


These parties showcase the utter lack of care and responsibility felt by the Conservative party; though not to say that other parties have been particularly helpful or forthright in their actual following of the covid restrictions so this is not a criticism levelled solely against the Conservatives but merely a criticism of the abuse of power by politicians. But the Conservative’s betrayal is particularly poignant.


In January of 2022, after a myriad of apologies and denials over the course of December news broke that Boris Johnson plans to enact ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ wherein there is now a supposed list of Conservative members that Johnson intends to send to the chopping block in his place. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister not only has this foolhardy attempt been exposed but it also brings into question just how anything has been getting done behind the scenes.


However, given the party’s insistence of wine and cheese parties and ‘Friday wine night’ over helping it’s ‘youngest and brightest’ and the ones who will ‘lead the next generation’ it’s relatively easy to see that things simply weren’t getting done.


Even if we were to ignore the deplorable and inexcusable ignoring of covid restrictions the most disgusting thing is that the government hasn’t improved or reflected on how they handled A-Levels and GCSEs. The most we can hope is that after the 2020 and 2021 exams that there has been enough trial and error that the system can still support itself by the end of it all.

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