Which is worse: flouting values, or letting them slide?
Did Boris turn a blind eye, or encourage the parties? (Let’s assume that he did actually know they weren’t strictly work.)
And - also assuming we agree that the people who create the rules for the rest of us have a moral duty to adhere to them - which is a clearer symptom of a major culture problem?
I’d argue that they are equally bad.
As the figurehead of an organisation, it’s contingent on you to be a figurehead for its values too, to represent its culture. Decisions might be made elsewhere, but to not nip things in the bud when they become apparent is implicitly to condone them.
Flouting your values is foolish - one rule for us, another for the people we’re here to serve has never been a good look - but letting them slide is equally dangerous. The army leadership code says that values ‘are often inferred from observable behaviour’ - so what do these parties say about the values amongst the team at number 10?
For what it’s worth, the Civil Service’s stated values are:
… and the five British values are
The rule of law
Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
I’d say that partying when you’ve imposed lockdown on the country breaks a fair number of those values. What grim contrast with the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral.
The irony of politics is that, having actually pulled off a number of excellent responses to the Pandemic, (not all, of course, but definitely many), it's this ‘observable behaviour’ amongst the team that might just be Boris’s undoing.