I will never, ever forgive you Boris Johnson — and here’s why

Grant Feller
8 min readJan 12, 2023

They were having sex while my dad was dying.

Boris Johnson partied while ordering us to stay home

They were having sex, getting drunk, dancing, laughing and breaking every rule in the book. At the same time, I was watching my father gasp for his last breath on a nurse’s WhatsApp video because the people who were partying told me I had to stay at home.

They wouldn’t even let me hold a proper funeral.

We’ve been drip-fed appalling anecdotes from Boris Johnson’s 2020 Covid leadership but now ITV have put it all together in a new podcast, during which it’s revealed that the Prime Minister joked that he was hosting ‘the most unsocially distanced party in the UK’ at No 10 Downing Street.

Joked. That’s the bit that really gets me, almost three years on. The man to whom the entire nation looked for guidance was, in reality, filling his boots.

I’m reprinting a piece below that I wrote at the time. I know it’s long but I do so because thousands of Britons shared the same awful experience — to be denied those final minutes with their loved ones. I know many have far more upsetting stories to tell but this is mine.

And it matters as much today as it did when I first wrote it, in what was a 60-minute howl at my laptop. Because I know that it wasn’t your fault, Boris. However, people like me will never ever forgive you for mocking us at our lowest moments.

You, the Prime Minister, shamelessly hosting a party at your home where work colleagues had sex and got drunk and danced all night, while my dad died.

Here’s the piece.

My father died this morning on his own. Because I’ve been in quarantine, I wasn’t there to hold his hand, nor look in his eyes as they glazed over and his eyelids gently shut for the last time. I didn’t hear him stop breathing. I don’t know what that must feel like, to listen to someone’s last breath, even though I have steeled myself for so long for that moment.

In the days before he slipped away, I didn’t tell my father the things I’d wanted to, that I’d spent so long planning to say, the words floating around my mind for so many years until they joined up in a meaningful way, perfected for the occasion. He didn’t tell me what he wanted to either. Perhaps there was a long-suppressed emotion, words of wisdom, last request, a gentle smile or joke, even the kind of tender exchange that he found impossible to share throughout my life with him. Maybe at the end he would tell me what he really wanted to tell me but, until then, never could.

This is no way to die and no way to mourn. It is the cruellest consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Countless thousands around the world will lose their lives and many who know they are dying will be denied the chance to say goodbye. To look into their child’s eyes — or their spouse’s or best friend or person they love dearly — and speak their last, treasured words or offer that meaningful glance which will never be forgotten.

What surreal and bewildering times we live in, when something so normal a few weeks ago is today impossible. Forbidden even. Deprived of the chance to offer my father comfort as he slowly died over a nine-day period, just a few short miles away from where I am trapped in a pandemic prison. Casualties everywhere.

In a few months’ time my father, Len, would have celebrated his 94th birthday, so his death has not come as a surprise, though that doesn’t lessen the shock and upset. Because he spent the past two years of his life wavering between ill-health and remarkable robustness, I’ve been contemplating death — his death — a great deal. Preparing myself in a way that I couldn’t with my mother when, four years ago, she died very suddenly in the midst of a routine stomach operation.

A decade younger than my father, she was meant to be the one who lasted longer. Her premature passing hit him hard but widowhood seemed to bestow on him an inner-strength. I began to talk to him much more freely about our lives together because I knew there wasn’t much time. We both did. But the things I really wanted to say to him, were for the end. For the moments when I would squeeze his hand as he gradually grew weaker and struggled to breathe, me sitting in a chair while he lay still on his deathbed. How foolish of me.

They were all planned in my head. The words of love, of no regrets, of forgiveness, of hope, of togetherness, of remembrance, of joy. Words we never said to each other that we both knew we were saving for the end. Words to mark the end of an extraordinary life. And now they are unsaid, destined to be etched on my memory or floating around my head being endlessly rewritten, instead of shared in what I had assumed would be a meaningful memento for us both.

I last saw him four weeks ago, just before I went on a short skiing holiday. Because I then caught and was laid low at home in Chiswick in West London by a lengthy bout of what I assume was coronavirus (I’ve not been tested), I couldn’t visit the care home in North London where we have sat and had breakfast together twice a week for the past 18 months. And just as I recovered, he fell ill and the system prevented me from joining him. When his pneumonia deteriorated, he was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and then discharged within 48 hours, his Covid-19 test negative. A few months ago, he would have been rushed to a ward, looked after for two weeks and may well have recovered but, in these harsh and peculiar times, he was let go in an uncomfortably short time.

For a week he lay on the bed in his room at the care home, gradually ebbing away, gasping for breath, washed, shaved and watched over by his carers whose devotion in his last days of need was extraordinary. They used their smartphones for video calls but I found them incredibly painful. To see him so ill and unresponsive on a grainy screen held in my hands as I sat in my kitchen just a 20-minute drive from where he lay was the most upsetting and impersonal experience I have ever endured. And yet these heroic carers unthinkingly and tirelessly performed acts that had been cruelly deprived of me. They sat with him, held him, listened to his breathing and talked about who-knows-what to comfort him.

But they couldn’t speak about the bustling East End where he grew up, the son of Romanian immigrants brought together in an arranged marriage. Nor of the English lessons he gave his mother having raced home from school, the evacuation that deprived him of the educational scholarship he had just won. Nor of lying about his age to go off to war, the fighting in Burma, the hero’s welcome home he felt he hardly deserved, the fortunes won and lost and businesses built and collapsed, the relationships he foolishly destroyed or the extraordinary acts of generosity that changed people’s lives. The night Charlie Kray offered him a job and then stole his girlfriend (neither of which my father objected to), or the night he and his bridge partner Omar Sharif won a small fortune and shared the finest Havanas in a gambling club that probably never officially existed. The sacrifices he made in working all hours single-handedly placing and repairing gaming and cigarette machines across London, so as to give his children the privileged kick-start in life he never had. What it felt like to be the last man standing, one of the final links to the kind of lives and experiences that are now the preserve of history textbooks and documentaries.

None of this he would have talked about without me there. He must have felt so alone, leaving a world in which no one at the very end really knew him. Perhaps it was that sense of physical and psychological abandonment that hastened his body’s collapse. I feel sad, angry and not a little guilty, all of these emotions jumbled up as if they are fighting each other for my attention. Perhaps I should allow them to. I suspect this bizarre emotional mash-up will play on an endless loop in my mind until I find some kind of closure, if I ever do. When something feels so unfair — and the effects on society of Covid-19 are so unfair for so many people — I’m unsure whether closure ever comes.

Certainly not at the heavily truncated funeral where the only service will be a few minutes over his grave, to which everyone is invited but no one will, understandably, come. No hugs or handshakes or tears or post-ceremony laughter as we collectively recall his life. Just the four of us standing by the freshly-dug earth, with a rabbi whose words of comfort will be working overtime in the months to come.

I know many will think this bizarre but I’m writing this in the middle of the afternoon, a few hours on from the call I had been waiting for. Friends and family have been informed, online forms filled in, the synagogue arrangements made, burial plans agreed. The four of us — my wife and two children — have hugged and cried, not yet reminisced, that will come I’m sure. But in this strange, morbid vacuum the only thing I felt I could do was to write something. After all, I’m not even allowed to see his body.

A few nights ago, we all sat down as a family to stream the new Catherine Deneuve and Juliet Binoche film, The Truth. It’s not terribly good but there is one scene that stands out. The great, ageing actress (Deneuve) is finally bonding emotionally with the disgruntled daughter (Binoche) she abandoned for her career. They share a tender, intimate moment that the daughter is visibly moved by, until, selfishly, the mother admonishes herself for not thinking of utilising these emotions in the crucial scene she had just filmed. Acting is the best way she can express herself with her loved ones. Her art benefits from feelings that she can’t — or won’t — share truthfully with her own family.

Writing this article is my Deneuve moment. Printed words are such a poor substitute for spoken ones but it is the only substitute I have right now. The most meaningful way I have of expressing emotions that I’ve been unable to through a freak of circumstance.

So here goes. I love you Daddy. Bye. Thank you for everything. Really, thank you. You did better than you think.

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Grant Feller

Content marketing & media consultant let down by poor second serve. I have many contacts among the lumberjacks. More about me: http://www.gf-media.co.uk/