'It's one rule for them, and one rule for us': Readers tell of Christmas heartbreak amid Downing Street party rumours

Michelle Stevens, aged around 11, with her mum Janet Ellis, who sadly died of COVID in January aged 73

Michelle Stevens, aged around 11, with her mum Janet Ellis, who sadly died of COVID in January aged 73 - Credit: Supplied by Michelle Stevens

Last week, when news of multiple potential Downing Street parties hit the headlines, we approached our MPs for their thoughts - with all who acknowledged our request denying attendance and damning any of those in active breach of Tier 4 COVID restrictions at the time.

Many of our readers then took to Facebook in response, sharing stories of how they spent Christmas 2020 compared to the rumours surrounding cabinet ministers.

Michelle Stevens shared her experience on the social media site, and later spoke to the Comet about how her festivities differed.

This time last year, as multiple alleged parties potentially raged on behind Downing Street doors, our reader - like countless others - was cancelling her Christmas plans.

Michelle - who has a hole in her lung "the size of a golf ball" and also suffers from lupus - was shielding in compliance with government restrictions, and refrained from seeing people from outside her household to protect their health as well as her own.

She was forced to tearfully exchange gifts with her nearest and dearest, including her 73-year-old mother, through car windows on Christmas Eve.

Little did Michelle know that this would also be the last time that she would see her mother, Janet Ellis.

Michelle Stevens tells of her heartbreak after losing her mum Janet Ellis, pictured, to COVID in January of this year

Michelle Stevens tells the Comet of her heartbreak after losing her mum Janet Ellis, pictured, to COVID in January of this year, devastated that she couldn't spend Christmas with her under Tier 4 restrictions - Credit: Supplied by Michelle Stevens

Michelle sadly lost Janet in January to COVID, with her 86-year-old partner David Fowler passing away in June due to complications with sepsis after overcoming the virus.

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Janet's untimely death also means she didn't get the chance to see Michelle and her husband Mark tie the knot in August.

Michelle Stevens married her husband Mark in August 2021, just seven months after losing her mother Janet to COVID

Michelle Stevens married her husband Mark in August 2021, just seven months after losing her mother Janet to COVID - Credit: Supplied by Michelle Stevens

"It was the post about the government having that party that made me feel like 'what were you doing?'!" Michelle said, noting that the leak of a video of former Downing Street press secretary Allegra Stratton brought a lot of suppressed emotions to the surface.

"It reminded me of the fact that my mum came here to do a Christmas drop, and she sat outside and cried in her car.

"It was hard to get our heads around, especially for her. Her partner was in hospital with sepsis so she would've been on her own. And because I'm vulnerable and she was old - well, I don't really call her old at all - he [Boris Johnson] had changed all the rules and turned around and said that we weren't allowed to be together."

Michelle added that after falling ill, her mother was adamant that she hadn't come down with COVID, insisting that she was fending off a bout of pneumonia - something she maintained even when she was admitted to a COVID ward in Bedford Hospital for care.

Enraged by any possibility that people in power were partying and breaking their own guidelines while others were shielding, fighting for their lives and dying, Michelle told this paper that the alleged actions show a lack of sympathy, disregarding the pain and suffering of the nation's people: "It's one rule for them, and one rule for us.

"I find it all so confusing. I just don't think they tell us the truth. They tell us what they want to tell us."

Lost for words, she added: "I just think that they ruined a lot of peoples' Christmases last year. If they could've had a party... I didn't want a party, I just wanted to spend it with my family."

Michelle's mum Janet Ellis, pictured, sadly died of COVID complications in January 2021

Michelle's mum Janet Ellis, pictured, sadly died of COVID complications in January 2021 - Credit: Supplied by Michelle Stevens

The mum of six, instead, spent the day with her new husband Mark and her two children who still live at home.

"The last memory of my mum is her there, outside, crying. That was the last time I saw her."

And Michelle is not alone. One Comet reader told us how they spent last Christmas: "Home alone in lockdown as we were all supposed to! I was unable to see my mother for the last Christmas that she was alive.

Another added that they spent the festive season alone, having to cancel plans with their parents, sister and brother-in-law, as well as their two nieces.

A further commenter stated that they spent Christmas with their husband and children.

"We missed out on seeing all of our other family members," they said. "It was the first Christmas without my nan and I felt it important to be with the rest of my family but we adhered to the ‘rules’.

"It wasn’t a bad Christmas but it was different and not the Christmas we had hoped for after a rubbish year and all the promises we were made about there being a ‘normal’ Christmas.

"Nothing will stop me this year."