Tearful funeral worker regrets enforcing Covid rules while No10 partied

14 January 2022, 13:06 | Updated: 14 January 2022, 13:48

'I feel like an idiot': Cremation officer breaks down in tears

By Tim Dodd

A funeral worker told James O'Brien he feels like "an idiot" for stopping grieving family members from attending cremations as the government partied away.

Outrage has erupted over "partygate", which has seen the Government embroiled in a cascade of allegations that staff broke Covid restrictions by holding boozy gatherings.

It comes as No10 apologised to the Queen over a party that took place the night before Prince Philip's funeral - which the monarch attended alone.

Camiel Chaudhary, 29, who works at West London Crematorium, started his role in February 2020, one month before the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

He told LBC's James O'Brien: "I'm a chapel attendant, a funeral officer at a crematorium... I stood at the big double doors and put my hand up and stopped a lot of people from coming in.

"Even cracked up faces, I had to tell them 'no, I'm sorry, we have to stand our ground'."

Mr Chaudhary continued: "Some people would push past you and you'd have to stand out their way, and some people would stand there and cry and say I understand.

"I feel like an idiot.

"I feel like I could've been more lenient. I mean, if the government was being that lenient at the time, and we're all standing here trying to follow the rules, and he can't even follow the rules that he's put out himself."

"No, they're the idiots," James replied.

Mr Chaudhary told LBC that among the worst parts of his role were phone calls to bereaved families to say "it's only going to be 30 people" able to attend the funeral.

The funeral worker recalled being told by one frustrated family member: "I know you're doing your job, I don't want to hurt you, you just need to stand out the way."

Others would walk straight past him, but many did say they understood why he had to enforce Covid rules.

Read more: No10 staff held two boozy parties hours before Prince Philip's funeral

Mr Chaudhary said events like the Downing Street parties will happen "again, and again, and again" as this is a "different type of government - a government that doesn't follow the rules of sheer mortals".

He also recalled "queues of hearses", the crematorium "being full capacity", and having to reiterate the government guidance to families.

"We never had a solid reason to tell people," he said.

At the time of Prince Philip's funeral in April 2021, funerals in England were permitted with up to 30 attendees. 

Commemorative events such as wakes, weddings, and outdoor receptions were able to take place with up to 15 attendees in premises that were permitted to open.

Boris Johnson has managed to cling on his job this week, despite rage at continuous allegations about Government staff parties and events during Covid restrictions.

Labour's calls for him to go were echoed by Scottish Conservatives this week, as Mr Johnson took to the despatch box in the House of Commons to apologise for attending a "BYOB" do in the Downing Street garden.

However, he insisted he believed it to be a work event, and said he regretted not sending everyone indoors.

But any attempt to placate people was harmed as reports emerged claiming Downing Street staff partied on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, which the Queen was pictured at alone because of Covid rules.

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