Britain’s Johnson is fighting for survival after new revelations about parties on Downing Street
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson was fighting for his political future on Friday when outrage increased after his delayed apology for attending a party during the lockdown and when a new report appeared on other violent gatherings in his office.
Revelations that Johnson and Downing Street staff violated restrictions on the height of Britain’s coronavirus lock-in have angered the public, who have been forced to follow rules that prevented them from visiting sick and dying loved ones or attending funerals.
The scandal seemed to deepen on Friday when the conservatively oriented Daily Telegraph published an exclusive claim that Johnson’s staff held an alcoholic party just hours before the socially distant funeral of Prince Philip in April 2021.
The image of Queen Elizabeth sitting alone in the church at her deceased husband’s memorial service was one of the sharpest images of Britain during the lockdown.
Most members of the government have gathered around Johnson after his mea culpa, but the support of potential successors such as the powerful finance minister Rishi Sunak has been markedly lukewarm.
While expressing “heartfelt apologies,” Johnson aroused ridicule this week by saying he believed a May 2020 rally in the Downing Street Garden – where more than 100 people gathered – was a work event.
He urged all parties to await the results of an internal investigation.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has joined at least four Tory MPs in urging Johnson to quit after the Prime Minister acknowledged joining the party.
“Sadly, I have to say that his position is no longer sustainable,” Ross told STV.
Cabinet member Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Ross as a “lightweight” Tory figure, which triggered reprimands from other MPs and warnings that the Englishman at the top strengthened the argument for Scottish independence.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has insisted Johnson had been “very, very sincere” in his apology, amid warnings that Conservative MPs could mobilize for a no-confidence vote.
But Lewis had to tone down reports that Johnson in the wake of his apology from the lower house told Ross and other tories that he did not think he had done anything wrong.
On Wednesday, Labor leader Keir Starmer went with other opposition leaders for the first time and demanded Johnson’s resign.
The Prime Minister’s opinion polls have dropped since “partygate” allegations surfaced last month.
A new YouGov poll in The Times gave Labor a 10-point lead over the Tories, its biggest margin since 2013, and said six out of 10 voters believe Johnson should resign.
The London Metropolitan Police have not ruled out a criminal investigation into the party in May 2020, which occurred at a time when Britons were banned from hanging out outdoors.
But at the moment, Johnson’s fate seems to be in the hands of senior official Sue Gray, whom he has commissioned to investigate the May 2020 event and other gatherings on Downing Street that year.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak, who was noticeably absent from the lower house on Wednesday, said Johnson had done the right thing in apologizing and called for “patience” pending Gray’s report.
Another potential challenger to replace Johnson, Secretary of State Liz Truss, also took hours to provide some public support, but later said she was “100 percent” behind the prime minister.
Johnson’s official spokesman insisted the cabinet was united in delivering the government’s post-Brexit and post-pandemic priorities.
“The Prime Minister follows the principles of public office,” he told reporters, stressing that Johnson had promised to publish Gray’s report and then update Parliament.