By Alice Dawson, First Year, Politics and IR
The new Channel 4 film Partygate dramatizes the events taking place in Downing Street during the global health crisis that was the COVID-19 Pandemic. It documents the parties, Wine Time Fridays and atmosphere behind the closed doors of number 10, as detailed in the Sue Gray report.
The report investigates 14 parties, uncovered through a series of interviews, WhatsApp messages, text messages, photographs, building entry and exit logs and examination of relevant documents and digital information. The findings of the reports are quoted throughout the film as a means of evidencing the mostly unbelievable scenes of Principle Private Secretary to Boris Johnson, Martin Reynolds, inviting over 200 people to 'make the most of the lovely weather' in the Downing Street garden. Meanwhile the rest of the country was only permitted to meet one person from a different household outside and socially distanced
The character of Grace Greenwood (Georgie Henley), an enthusiastic new Special Advisor (SpAd) for the Brexit department, is a fictional role used as a lens for the narration and storytelling of the events. While herself and the character of Annabel D'acre (Ophelia Lovibond), who is shown to play a fundamental role in the organisation of these parties, are fictional, the rest of the cast represent real members of the Conservative Party, including Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen McNamara (Charlotte Ritchie), who were reported to be frequent attendees of these parties.
The acting is interwoven with media clips from press conferences at that time, videos used as evidence in the report, and testimonies from people seriously affected by the rules that were so obviously flouted by government officials. The testimonies include students being fined £10,000 for lockdown gatherings, while being offered no support in paying it.
While this film does not take away from the validity of a breach of lockdown fine, the revelation that Boris Johnson, Carrie Johnson, Rishi Sunak, and Helen McNamara were each fined £50 total clearly illustrates the ridiculous disparity between the treatment of the two sides of the Downing Street gates.
The security (custodians), and cleaning staff are repeatedly shown a severe lack of respect from the government officials who have subsequently put them at risk from COVID. There is an atmosphere of disregard and ignorance throughout the film, leaving you to question how much, if any remorse was felt for these actions.
The videos that exposed Allegra Stratton, former press secretary of the PM, show her laughing and joking with Number 10 staff about their repetitive disregard of the rules and guidance set out by their government, at their 'business meetings' which evidently, were in fact parties. The use of genuine footage really serves as a reminder throughout that, although it is a film, the events being showcased are very real; those were the actions of the Conservative Party during a period filled with grief, solitude, and despair, for so many people nationwide.
Partygate gives an insight into the gatherings on government premises in a synoptic, accessible manner. Following rolling news update and reading 60-page government reports is not always feasible for many people. The combination of fact and fiction in this production gives the audience a detailed understanding of the wrongdoing of Number 10 with the genuine evidence to create a provocative, informative, yet watchable film.
Featured Image: Unsplash; Annie Spratt