Stuck in the “partygate”, Boris Johnson fights for his political survival

LONDON | Targeted by calls for resignation within his majority, Boris Johnson is battling to remain at the head of the British government after his mea culpa for his presence at a party in Downing Street in full confinement in 2020.

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The situation was further complicated Thursday after media revelations The Telegraph reporting another party in Downing Street, still in full lockdown, but this time on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, as the country mourned nationally.

Already overwhelmed by a string of other scandals, the 57-year-old Tory leader apologized to Parliament on Wednesday for attending a party on May 20, 2020 in the gardens of his official residence, saying he then thought he was was about a business meeting.

The event, for which an invitation had been sent by his secretary to around 100 people with the suggestion to bring their bottles, took place during a traumatic time for the British. In the midst of the first wave of Covid-19, only two people were allowed to be outside and many Britons were unable to say goodbye to their dying loved ones.

Immediately, the opposition parties, led by Labor who accused him of lying, demanded his resignation, while members of his government overwhelmingly supported him, on Twitter or in the media.

The subject is not, however, unanimous in the ranks of the Conservatives, who until recently praised Boris Johnson’s ability to seduce, with his promise to achieve Brexit, the working classes of the north of England, formerly acquired by Labor. .

“Undead”

The very timid support given to him by a heavyweight in the executive, the Minister of Finance Rishi Sunak, perceived as a potential candidate for the post of prime minister, was widely commented on.

Traveling in Devon (south-west of England) while the head of government faced the wrath of MPs, Mr. Sunak took eight hours to line up behind him, via a tweet in which he insisted on his own commitment for employment in the UK.

“The Prime Minister has done well to apologize and I support his request to be patient” while awaiting the results of the internal investigation led by senior official Sue Gray, he said soberly.

Expected at best next week, the conclusions of this internal investigation are now shaping up to be decisive for the fate of Boris Johnson.

Mocked for the line they are following of not investigating a post facto violation of anti-ovid rules, London police said on Thursday evening that they would reconsider their outlook if the internal investigation revealed any potential criminal offenses.

Sign of the cracks which crack the unity of the party in power, the revolt also rumbles among the Scottish Conservatives, who consider his position untenable, and Tory MPs in Westminster.

Like Roger Gale, for whom Boris Johnson is a “living dead”, some elected officials openly said they were in favor of a vote of no confidence within the Conservative Party in order to push him towards the exit.

“The position of the Prime Minister is untenable and I think we should not let the conclusions of a civil servant determine his future”, agreed another member, William Wragg, the vice-president of the powerful “1922 committee”, responsible. the parliamentary organization of training. “It is up to the Conservative Party, if not the Prime Minister himself, to make this decision,” he added on the BBC.

The scandal comes on top of other revelations about parties held in power circles during the lockdowns of the past two years, as well as accusations of corruption and favoritism.

Boris Johnson, who came to power triumphantly in July 2019, has since seen his long-standing popularity tumble in the polls. One, made by YouGov for The Times before his apology, gives Labor a large ten-point lead, a first in nearly a decade.

On Thursday, the head of government escaped the cameras and questions from the media: Covid contact case, he canceled a planned visit to a vaccination center.

Christmas party, departure drink, wines and cheeses in the sun … The government of Boris Johnson and the circles of power are singled out for a dozen celebrations organized in the midst of the pandemic when the British had to drastically reduce their contacts.

May 15, 2020

A photo published in the press shows the Prime Minister, his wife Carrie (then his fiancée) and collaborators sharing boards of cheese and glasses of wine in the Downing Street garden. While such moments of sociability were prohibited during the first confinement, Boris Johnson spoke of “people at work, talking about work”.

May 20, 2020

A hundred people are invited, in an email sent by Boris Johnson’s chief private secretary, Martin Reynolds, to come “enjoy the good weather” for a drink “with social distancing” in the gardens of the Prime Minister’s residence. The British could then legally meet only one person outside, in a public place. Forty people were said to have participated in the event, including Boris Johnson and Carrie. The leader did not comment.

November 13, 2020

Media report a party with collaborators in Boris Johnson’s official apartment. The leader assures us that “the rules have always been respected”. A second lockdown was then underway in the United Kingdom.

November 27, 2020

A party was said to have been organized for a collaborator at 10 Downing Street, during which Mr Johnson would have made a speech despite the confinement. About fifty were found massed in a room.

December 10, 2020

The Ministry of Education confirmed the holding of a party where about twenty people had gathered on December 10 around a few “glasses and canapes”. After the lockdown, restrictions were then in effect in London that prohibited different homes from meeting inside.

December 14, 2020

After a photo was published to the press, the Conservative Party admitted to an unauthorized party at its London headquarters, organized by the team of then-London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey. The latter has since resigned as chairman of the police and crime committee of the assembly of the British capital.

December 15, 2020

the Sunday Mirror publishes a photo of the Prime Minister, flanked by two collaborators, participating in an online quiz. Downing Street admitted the leader had “briefly” participated in the event, stressing that it was virtual.

December 16, 2020

The Ministry of Transport has apologized for an “inappropriate” Christmas party held at its premises.

December 18, 2020

A Boris Johnson adviser resigned after joking in a video that went viral about a party that was said to have gathered around 40 people that day in Downing Street. Saying “furious”, the Prime Minister said that he had been “assured several times” since the beginning of the case that “there had been no party” and that “no rule” had not been violated.

Other anti-COVID rule violations

Former influential adviser to Boris Johnson and mastermind of the victorious Brexit campaign, Dominic Cummings admitted in spring 2020 to having violated anti-COVID rules by traveling with his family in full confinement, which was prohibited. Last June, Health Minister Matt Hancock resigned for breaking health rules by having an affair with a counselor.

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