Rory Kinnear: No 10 event a direct assault in the face of national tragedy

Actor Rory Kinnear has described a “bring your own booze” gathering at No 10 as being like a “direct assault” in the face of “our shared national tragedy”.

The event on May 20 2020, which was attended by Boris Johnson, took place on the same day as Kinnear’s sister Karina’s funeral, following her death from coronavirus aged 48.

She suffered a lack of oxygen at birth, causing severe brain damage, had been left paralysed from the waist down after a life-saving operation on her spine, and was in hospital with chest infections regularly throughout her life.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson acknowledged the public “rage” over the incident, which took place during the first national lockdown, but insisted he thought it could have been technically within the rules.

Writing in The Guardian, Bond star Kinnear described the day on which his family buried his sister in a ceremony limited by Covid-19 restrictions.

He added: “Just under two miles separates my corner of London from the garden of Downing Street.

“I am, today, haunted by the tinkling of those glasses there on that sun-drenched night, the echoing of their thin laughter, the stifled chuckles as they practised their imagined denials and, most perniciously, the leadership that encouraged it to happen.

“Their actions feel like direct assaults in the face of my family’s, and all of our shared national, tragedy.

“To me, and I’m sure many others, the revelations of the manifest and repeated failures of those in power to understand, empathise or show solidarity with what the people of this country experienced during that time have released from the body politic a stench so toxic that I can’t see how they will be able to put it back in the bottle, no matter how desperately they try.

“They can’t point the finger anywhere else this time, can they? After all, they brought the bottle themselves.”

The 43-year-old, known for his Shakespearean stage roles and as MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner in the 007 film series, has previously suggested the language around the deaths of people from coronavirus, with “underlying conditions”, has to change.

Mr Johnson told MPs in the Commons that he attended the gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”.

“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said.

However, he said “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside, I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that – even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way”.