In the heart of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, where Boris Johnson has been MP since 2015, people expressed their discontent over allegations of “unfair” lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street. Yet, even those critical of Partygate expressed their waning interest or said they felt it was beyond their control.
While for some the decision by the Metropolitan police to fine 20 people for lockdown breaches is a confirmation of law-breaking for which Johnson should be held accountable, others said they were “annoyed” by reactions to the affair, or saw no reason to hold on to the past.
Awaiting an Uber and sheltered from the brisk wind, Mohsin Khan, 29, said if the prime minister had an ounce of respect for the country and democracy he would resign.
Khan, whose grandmother died during the coronavirus pandemic, expressed outrage that he wasn’t able to see her in her final moments, whereas Johnson was “sitting in the garden having a couple of beers”.
Mohsin Khan. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
“Even if they say we were only there to sing happy birthday, well I didn’t get two minutes to say bye to my grandmother, so I don’t see again why it’s acceptable for him and not anyone else,” said Khan, who lives in Slough and was visiting Uxbridge for work. “To be honest, the best thing he can do is step down.”
With Johnson facing calls within his own party to resign, Khan said the fact that he was still in power and refusing to resign “shows that he’s a dictator” and said it was unfortunate “he feels he can get away with anything”.
He added: “I think he’s an absolute idiot, and I would never say that in the beginning, when he became prime minister, but now I am saying it because I’ve seen what he is like.”
Alexandra Zabulica. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
When asked if he voted for the prime minister, Khan said “not at all”. While he did not vote for Brexit either, Khan did vote for Labour in the previous election and now feels change is needed, particularly as the young community evolves and should be given an opportunity. “If that is Labour,” he said, “then so be it.”
Standing at a kiosk and waiting for her lunch, Alexandra Zabulica, 22, said that while the prime minister’s alleged rule-breaking when others were kept under strict quarantine bothered her, “there’s nothing we can do about it”.
Zabulica, who lives near Wembley and has never voted, and does not think she will in the future, said it would be “nice” for Johnson to get “kicked off” and have someone else elected. “Even if I did care, I can’t say anything, no one would listen,” she said.
Outside Uxbridge underground station, Sarah Smith, 54, said she grew bored seeing Partygate on the television week after week.
Sarah Smith. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
“It’s setting a bad example,” she said of Johnson’s alleged behaviour, “but I just think a lot of people did flout the rules.”
Both Sarah and her sister, Sharon, 60, said they did not break the rules themselves and sympathised with Johnson who “has had lots of things happen”. The prime minister contracted Covid in 2020, lost his mother in 2021, and welcomed a daughter with his partner, Carrie Johnson, months later.
Born and raised in Uxbridge, the sisters are Labour voters. “I feel slightly annoyed,” said Sharon. “People keep saying, ‘My mum was in the hospital dying and I couldn’t go and see her,’ and I think that’s a different issue. It’s not the same.”
She added: “If he had gone to his mother’s death bed at the same time, then I think that argument would count.”
Sharon Smith. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
When asked if politicians should be held to a higher standard to follow the rules they enforce, the sisters agreed that “they probably never have”, but “it’s just now people have been caught on it”.
Sarah said: “I think all humans are fallible.”
Uxbridge resident Simran Kaur, 21, said legal action needed to be taken against the prime minister and that he should face “the same” fine enforced on others.
“He was chilling out, literally enjoying life when we were struggling and staying in the house,” said Kaur, who said “of course” she cared about the Partygate scandal after not being able to visit family friends at Christmas under hard restrictions.
“The rules are rules. It follows through everyone,” said Kaur, who voted Labour in the previous election and plans on voting in the upcoming election. “It doesn’t mean he’s the prime minister and doesn’t follow rules. It has to be equal.”