LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 8: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference at 10 Downing Street.
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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership is on edge as a scandal over “parties” held in Downing Street – and allegedly in various other government departments – during the UK’s Covid-19 lockdowns led to calls for his resignation.
Top Conservative Party officials called on Johnson to resign after he admitted on Wednesday that he attended a cocktail party in the park in Downing Street, the prime minister’s office and which he lives next door, during lockdown when the public was banned from seeing more than one person in an outdoor setting he did not live with.
Reports of festivities as the British public sacrificed their freedoms and social lives, not to mention their time with loved ones, caused widespread outrage. Senior officials question whether Johnson can still command the respect of the party and the country.
CNBC has a clue as to “Partygate” and why Johnson’s time in office may be coming to an end.
What’s going on?
Johnson admitted he attended a party described as a “bring your own booze” in Downing Street park, to which about 100 people were reportedly invited, during the lockdown.
In a speech to the House of Commons (the House of Representatives), Johnson offered his “heartfelt apologies” to the nation but defended himself, saying he only attended the 25-minute ceremony in order to “thank staff groups” for their hard efforts. work and that he “implicitly believed this was a work event”.
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer told Parliament that Johnson’s explanation for his attendance was “so ridiculous that it is in fact offensive to the British public” as he called on Johnson to “do the decent thing and resign”.
The party Johnson attended is controversial because it took place on May 20, 2020, when the UK was in its first Covid lockdown and people across the country were only allowed to meet someone else from outside their home, among other strict rules.
It’s not the first report of a closing ceremony held by government officials either.
More parties are being investigated
The emergence of details surrounding the May 20 ceremony, organized by the Prime Minister’s private secretary, Martin Reynolds, came after several weeks of reports and evidence of various parties and rallies – which government officials defended as “working events” – held in Downing Street and other government offices at points different during an epidemic.
While the British media has persistently sought to reveal more details about the parties, with details and photos of a number of them leaking to the press, the British public has become increasingly angry as rallies have invariably been held at times when people weren’t supposed to. socialize.
On May 20, for example, rules in place meant that spouses or relatives who lived apart from each other were not allowed to hug. All non-essential shops, restaurants, pubs and bars were closed at that time as well.
People who lost loved ones during the pandemic poured scorn on the government after party reports, feeling they were robbed of precious moments with family while politicians broke the rules.
Earlier this week, Johnson was asked if he and his wife, Carrie Johnson, attended the May 20 party, but he avoided the question, telling a reporter that an investigation into several parties allegedly held and attended by government employees was underway.
The investigation into whether there were parties that violated the rules is being led by a senior government employee, Sue Gray, who is expected to present her findings next week. Sky News has published a list of the alleged parties here.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was originally set to lead the investigation, but was forced to leave the investigation after it was revealed that a meeting in his private office took place in December 2020, also breaking the rules in place at the time.
How bad is that for Boris?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves both houses of Parliament after the weekly PMQ on January 12, 2022 in London, England. During today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson told the House of Representatives that he joined staff at 10 Downing Street lawn for 25 minutes shortly after 6pm on May 20, 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown. He said he “implicitly believed this was a work event” and went back to work at No. 10 after that.
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There are allegations that letters from Tory MPs calling for a vote of no-confidence – the 54 letters needed to spark a challenge – were submitted to Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 back-to-back committee overseeing leadership challenges, according to Sky News.
In more bad news for Johnson, a new YouGov and The Times poll showed a sharp drop in support for the Conservatives, giving Tory lawmakers more reason to question Johnson’s future in office.
Whether Johnson will respond to calls to resign is another matter as reports indicate he still has the support of his closest minister, his government. Johnson and his government have also weathered political storms before and take some credit for “finishing Brexit”. Despite the hype this week, the pound was trading 0.2% higher against the dollar on Thursday, with the pound valued at $1.3728 and up nearly 0.2% year-over-year so far.
Tory lawmakers will now assess whether they believe Johnson can win a future election, however, given the weak public confidence in him. Local elections take place in May, and that will be the next test of the strength of popular support for the party itself. The closest test for the prime minister will be the publication of Sue Gray’s results after her investigation into government “parties”, scheduled for next week.
Rod Dacombe, director of the Center for British Politics and Government at King’s College London, told CNBC Thursday that Johnson was “in a state of perpetual crisis” during his premiership, which began in 2019, first with turbulent Brexit negotiations and torture. Dealing with the Covid pandemic.
He pointed out that “the risk of electoral problems for the Conservative Party in general hangs over its head already.” “If he stops providing electoral assistance to the party, I think he will have real problems and that’s what the poll data tells us.”
Dacombe believes Johnson is “in what appears to be a final position, I think that’s fair, but I suspect it will be a while before we see any real strong challenge to his leadership,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”
If the challenge is to come, there is speculation that Finance Minister Rishi Sunak could be first in line. Dacombe agreed, “Traditionally, you might think so [a challenge] He’ll be one of the biggest names at the party…but there’s always a chance of someone being outside of the mainstream..so it’s an open field that I’d suggest.”
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