Partygate: Tory MP defends PM as NHS workers 'also let their hair down'

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South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon sparked outrage after suggesting NHS workers 'let their hair down' during the pandemic. (PA)
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon sparked outrage after suggesting NHS workers 'let their hair down' during the pandemic. (PA)

A Tory MP has sparked outrage after he suggested NHS staff also “let their hair down” during the pandemic as a defence of Boris Johnson.

Following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into lockdown parties at Downing Street, the prime minister was faced with calls to quit from some Tory MPs.

But Conservative MP Richard Bacon said the prime minister should not be “condemned” for “thanking his staff for working very, very hard”.

He then went on to say that some NHS workers may also have had similar parties, despite working long shifts.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on May 25, 2022, following the publication of the Sue Gray report. - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls to resign after an inquiry Wednesday found that he presided over a culture of lockdown-breaking parties that featured drunken fighting among staff. Johnson is among dozens of people in Downing Street who have received police fines for breaching Covid regulations since 2020 -- making Number 10 the most penalised address in the entire country. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson apologised to the country following the publication of the Sue Gray reports into Downing Street parties during lockdown. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty)

He told BBC Look East: "You haven't gone and investigated it but there are one and a half million people who work in the NHS.

“I bet if you tried hard enough you could find some people letting their hair down who were working 24/7 in the NHS as well.”

Bacon’s comments have prompted fury from shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who demanded an immediate retraction.

He tweeted: “(It’s) a grotesque insult to the people who work for the NHS. He should withdraw this and apologise.”

BBC presenter Gary Lineker also reacted, tweeting: “Hospitals are really big buildings. Nurses and doctors were working really long hours.

Watch: Bereaved husband shares his reaction to Partygate report

"Some of them, no doubt, left their jobs and, yet, somehow still managed not to have a party after work and follow the rules that they didn’t actually make.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that doctors and colleagues "will be outraged to hear their names being used to defend the rule-breaking behaviour of the prime minister and senior officials in Downing Street".

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of BMA council, said: “Drawing such a comparison will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of NHS staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, often unprotected and at great expense to their wellbeing, to care for patients in the most gruelling of circumstances.

“While the prime minister’s aides were ‘letting their hair down’ and messaging that they had ‘got away with it’, doctors and healthcare workers were giving their all – and for some, their lives – to care for their patients, working hour after hour, and day after day, with little or no respite...

“It is therefore a gross insult to doctors and healthcare staff to compare the flagrant rule-breaking in Downing Street with the diligence, compassion and professionalism of healthcare workers.”

Labour’s Khalid Mahmood said Bacon’s comment was “disgraceful”, adding: “To make this horrid comment in comparison is unforgivable.”

A nurse walks through a covid ward at King's College Hospital, in south east London. Picture date: Tuesday December 21, 2021. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
A nurse walks through a COVID ward at King's College Hospital, London, in December last year. (Victoria Jones/PA/Getty)

Yahoo News UK has contacted the Royal College of Nursing for a comment.

The prime minister declined to implement a booze ban in Downing Street despite Gray’s findings during a period when Johnson ordered the public into isolation.

She said officials drank so much they were sick, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks down Downing Street in London after a press conference following the publication of the Sue Gray report into parties in Whitehall during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture date: Wednesday May 25, 2022.
Boris Johnson is attempting to move on from the Partygate scandal despite calls to quit. (PA)

Johnson refused to resign despite accepting the “bitter and painful” conclusions of the senior official’s inquiry that revealed lurid details of partying in government.

He said he “overwhelmingly” believes he should stay in power to tackle the nation’s challenges including the soaring costs of food and energy.

A snap poll from YouGov suggested three in five Britons want Johnson to quit.

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