tThe video was evidence of the declining quality of MPs, according to former UKIP leader Henry Bolton. Anthony Grayling, the philosopher, described her as a “bald vomit” and Philip Pullman, the author, said he was “horrified”.
Their collective outcry was centered on the words of Rosie Holt who, when asked by an interviewer if she was attending any of the Downing Street parties, said that until Sue Gray completes her report, “Your guess is as good as mine: I know not or I attended the party”.
Holt added: “If there was a party in lockdown when we told everyone they couldn’t even attend funerals but nobody knew about it, was there a party?”
At first glance, Holt may be hard to distinguish from the dwindling number of Tory MPs willing to stand up for the Prime Minister, but she is in fact a satirist – an actor and comedian with a strong line in parodies of the political speech that in buzz. This video sketch has become popular — 6 million views on Twitter so far — in part because “a lot of people” think it’s real, she said.
“I’m not going in there to mislead people,” she told the… Observer. “I get a little nervous when a lot of people think it’s real because that’s not what I’m trying to do.
“But there are also a lot of people who do understand it. And I’m pretty good at filtering out the negative stuff. Some people say ‘oh, you shouldn’t joke about this stuff – it’s a serious topic’.
“But I’m a big believer in laughing at things that make you sad and angry. And so much is happening to this government at a time when there is always just so much material.”
This particular video was created by combining Holt’s footage with questions from a Sky News reporter Boris Johnson in which he dodged questions about whether he had gone to the garden party on May 20, 2020. Others have cited Holt as a dishonest columnist or online commentator, raising arguments about things like Shamima Begum or the statue of Edward Colston.
Social media has been flooded with jokes and memes since partygate started. After Johnson claimed he “implicitly believed it was a work event,” people posted photos of other “work events”: people dancing at festivals, bars, pool parties and English football fans lighting torches between their bums. When news broke that Downing Street staff had brought a suitcase to a supermarket to fill it with liquor, supermarket wine shelves were photoshopped under a “office supplies” message.
Holt’s first sketch appeared in June 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. The 30-year-old actor, who trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, was about to tour in The Crown – Live, a parody of the Netflix series, when the first lockdown started. “I moved back to my parents for a lockdown in Somerset and, like many creators, went a little crazy,” she says.
Her first video was triggered by comments from people outraged that Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, was planning to remove a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan outside the Museum of London Docklands.
“All these people said ‘you are trying to destroy history’, ‘this is against democracy’. There was so much anger. It was extraordinary – this visceral reaction from people who wanted to protect the statues of slave traders. I came up with the idea of taking someone who follows these ideas to his logical conclusion. So I posted a sketch where this character says, ‘oh, it’s terrible, they erase history. Just like Stalin did. By the way, of whom I have a statue in my garden’. Another video on Colston shows Holt’s right-wing commentator asking if things have gone too far: Will people demonize men of the past for beating their wives, for burning witches or for Victorian child labor?
Holt was nervous about her early videos and researched the news in detail to make sure she wasn’t making mistakes.
“When I started reading the Telegraph and [online magazine] Spiked, they will make an argument while leaving out huge holes. One issue that keeps coming up is that “slavery was okay, everyone did it,” but there was still a really strong abolitionist movement. They put forth these really strong opinions with no evidence to back them up any more, which I find quite disturbing. ”
Holt’s agent, Hatch Talent, negotiates several offers that have come her way. Why does she think she’s doing so well now? “I think people are very angry with the parties. So it touched a nerve,” she says.
“I find this government in general quite repulsive. And I think the problem is that when Boris came to power, he seemed to put loyalty over competence. So he got rid of many of the competent Tories.
“And as a result, you have this cabinet of people who are actually mostly, well, idiots. They are incompetent idiots. And so, if Boris goes, who do we get? Liz Truus? Oh God. How awful.”