JANET STREET PORTER: Why ‘Big Dog’ is dead meat – Sound Health and Lasting Wealth


Tomorrow, Partygate resumes as Boris Johnson comes out of Covid seclusion to attend Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Will Big Dog (as he’s apparently known by his team) pull off a major conjuring trick in which he turns from a lying buffoon into a plausible purveyor of truth? Only joking.

Last week, our leader stood up and offered sincere apologies for attending a ‘party’ in Downing Street during lockdown on May 20th last year, breaking his own rules. 

As an apology it was utterly feeble – he claimed he thought the gathering was ‘work event’ and claimed he was there for less than half an hour. None of which made his behaviour more acceptable.

The public are no fools. By last weekend, 7 out of 10 said they thought he wasn’t telling the truth and 8 out of 10 said the gathering – no matter what it was called – was definitely breaking the rules. Half of those polled thought he should step down.

Will Big Dog (as he’s apparently known by his team) pull off a major conjuring trick in which he turns from a lying buffoon into a plausible purveyor of truth? Only joking

Since then, we’ve found out about a whole string of Downing Street ‘work-related events’. Two held on the evening before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, when a DJ played and there was dancing and boozing until late. 

We have been told about regular quiz nights, leaving drinks, hot weather celebrations, and ‘impromptu’ drinks to celebrate the publication of the Spending Review.

In early December, Gavin Williamson held a drinks party at the Department of Education, to ‘thank staff’- even though indoor mixing was still banned. 

Everyone (probably including the cleaners) who has left Downing Street for another job since the pandemic started seems to have been given a boozy send-off. Everyone, that is, except Dominic Cummings.

Even Kate Josephs, in charge of implementing the government’s response to Covid, had the gall to hold her own leaving do (with booze) last December attended by dozens of workers in the Cabinet Office. 

She was comfortable breaking her own rules at a time when Cabinet ministers had gone on telly to warn the public such behaviour was unacceptable. We were told to be ‘sensible’ and keep socialising to a minimum.

No doubt the list of Whitehall parties – followed by grovelling apologies – will grow. Dominic Cummings, who seems more determined than ever to bring down his former boss – is promising more revelations and photos.

He claims the Prime Minister is lying when he ‘apologised’ and said the party on May 20th was nothing to do with him. Cummings – still on the pay roll at the time – says he told Boris ‘you’ve got to grip a grip of this madhouse.’ 

He claims that in spite of another official checking with the Prime Minister, the ‘bring your own booze’ party was allowed to go ahead.

The drinking culture in Downing Street seems to reflect what was going on behind closed doors and in back gardens all over the UK during the pandemic. Forced to work from home, with restaurants, pubs and clubs shut, we visited supermarkets to stock up on alcohol.

Last week, our leader stood up and offered sincere apologies for attending a 'party' in Downing Street during lockdown on May 20th last year, breaking his own rules

Last week, our leader stood up and offered sincere apologies for attending a ‘party’ in Downing Street during lockdown on May 20th last year, breaking his own rules

Not only was it cheaper than going out (we could consume more for less), there was no need to drive. The only criticism of over-consumption might come from other members of our own family (and who listens to them)? A few units every day offered solace from misery and isolation.

Covid has turned a large number of us into serious boozers. According to the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the number of Brits whose levels of drinking could endanger their health (downing up to 50 units a week) rose by a third from six million to eight million in the year from October 2019. 

According to medical experts, shutting down society and forcing us to isolate at home has had a hugely damaging impact on our health and it will take up to five years for drinking levels to drop.

Whilst ordinary folk were downing their units in front of the telly, the young work force in Downing Street were reaching for bottles they’d stored under their desks or in their personal mini bars. Every Friday, we’re told, teams of workers routinely met and drank to ‘celebrate’ getting through a busy week.

Not something teams of nurses and doctors working for the NHS managed to do inbetween resuscitating patients in ICU.

Even though the public were told they couldn’t visit relatives in care homes in hot weather, or even pass them a can or two, civil servants and special advisors in Downing Street were breaking out the chianti, uncorking the prosecco and laying out the cheeseboards – claiming their large garden was just an ‘office’ so it was within the rules. (It wasn’t).

The more that we discover about the goings on behind that iconic front door at number 10, the more topsy turvy office life under Boris Johnson appears to be.

In rural areas miles from central London, friends walking their dogs at a beauty spot were stopped by the police and asked if they were related and asked if they lived locally. 

People were fined thousands of pounds for inviting neighbours in for a birthday party. Christening, weddings and funeral celebrations were banned. Anyone having the bravery to sunbathe or go for a swim in the sunshine was threatened with a stiff fine or a trip to the nick. 

Was it necessary? The police were placed in an impossible situation, tasked by the government with implementing confusing rules.

Big Dog increasingly sounds like Dead Meat, writes JANET STREET-PORTER

Big Dog increasingly sounds like Dead Meat, writes JANET STREET-PORTER

The illegal Downing Street parties reveal an environment where everyone thinks they are ‘special’ and not bound by the same rules as the rest of us and workplace boozing on a scale I thought went out of fashion by the 1980’s.

The photo taken of the Downing Street Garden on May 15th 2020 show Boris Johnson and Carrie sitting with officials, and bottles of wine and cheese on various tables. Matt Hancock appears to be in the background, along with Dominic Cummings and other officials.

This culture which normalises boozing whilst at work – is every bit as as dangerous as the excessive boozing the rest of us were indulging in sitting at home.

But we were not tasked with protecting our shores, launching nuclear deterrents, running National security, the NHS and the Treasury.

We now know that Downing Street is where staff members drink off their boozing, sleep overnight under their desks and carry on working in the same clothes next day. Where lunchtime drinking which extends all afternoon is normal – because you’re ‘essential’ workers.

But that’s not how the modern workplace operated before covid.

This sounds like the office culture of forty years ago or more – when I started work in television, the entertainment business and newspapers. Who drinks at lunch time these days apart from ancient members of the House of Lords and some MP’s?

Nobody drinks like that if they are a young entrepreneur, a business man or woman who wants to succeed and grow their empire.

And what kind of office celebrates getting through every week by holding drinks in the office on Friday afternoons? Maybe if you are selling houses, running a small business flogging cars….but really, do we expect the people running OUR COUNTRY to behave like seventies throwbacks?

Downing Street 2022 sounds a bit like those heady days back in the 1980s when Boris started out in journalism. Long gone.

Big Dog increasingly sounds like Dead Meat.



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