© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Leaves Downing Street 10 to Meet with Oman Sultan Haitham bin Tariq in London, Britain, December 16, 2021. REUTERS / Dylan Martinez / File Photo
Authors William James and Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized on Wednesday for attending a “bring your booze” rally at his official residence during Britain’s first quarantine for coronavirus, as a senior figure in his party and opponents said he should resign.
Johnson first admitted to attending a party at 10 Downing Street in May 2020 when COVID-19 rules kept social gatherings to a minimum, saying he understood public outrage.
“I know how angry they feel towards me because of the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the people who make the rules don’t follow the rules,” Johnson told Parliament with an ashen face.
“I sincerely apologize,” he said.
Johnson said he regretted his action and thought the rally was a work event – provoking ridicule and laughter from opposition lawmakers.
“I walked into that garden just after six on May 20, 2020, to thank groups of staff before returning to my office 25 minutes later and resuming work,” Johnson said.
– Looking back, I should have put everything back inside.
Leaders of all major opposition parties have called for his resignation, while the leader of the Conservatives in Scotland has become the first person in his party to say Johnson should resign now.
Labor leader Keir Starmer said the public – who gave Johnson a landslide victory in the December 2019 election after promising to secure Britain’s exit from the European Union – thought he was a liar.
“The party is over, Prime Minister,” Starmer told him.
“After months of deception and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man left without a road. His defense that he didn’t realize he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public.”
‘DON’T SINK YET’
Since then, the anger has grown ITV (LON 🙂 News reported that Johnson and partner Carrie mingled with about 40 employees in the Downing Street Garden after his chief private secretary Martin Reynolds sent out an invitation asking attendees to “bring their own booze.” Johnson’s press secretary said the prime minister had not seen the email.
Numerous people, including some lawmakers, described how the rules kept them from the beds of dying loved ones in May last year, unlike the Downing Street event.
Some of Johnson’s own conservative lawmakers said his response Wednesday to growing anger would determine his future.
“He brought a lot of water and is on the list, but he has not completely sunk yet,” one of them told Reuters.
Senior ministers gathered around Johnson to express support on social media, but other MPs were not convinced, most notably Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
“Unfortunately, I have to say that his position is no longer sustainable,” Ross told Sky News, after speaking with Johnson earlier. Sky said he would submit a letter of no confidence to the prime minister.
To challenge the leadership, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs must write letters of no confidence https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/how-could-uk-pm-johnson-be-ousted-by- unfortunate-legislators -2022-01-12 to the President of the Party “Committee 1922”.
“I’m afraid it sounds to me like the political prime minister is a dead man walking,” said Roger Gale, another Conservative MP who also wrote a letter urging Johnson to face the challenge.
ENTERTAINMENT FOR KEYS
Just two years ago, Johnson was at his peak: he secured the largest conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 after promising to achieve Brexit. He led the campaign to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
But a series of wrong steps around everything, from slimy scandals and lavish remodeling of his apartment https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/sleaze-scandal-lockdown-parties-trying-times-uk-pm-johnson-2022 -01 -11 on his treatment of COVID-19 and now the parties on Downing Street have exhausted his political capital.
Two quick opinion polls on Tuesday found that more than half of respondents believe Johnson should resign. Last month, the Conservatives lost their nearly 200-year-old seat, while the party’s pleasant leadership over Labor in polls has disappeared.
Bookmakers have slashed their chances that Johnson will be ousted as prime minister this year, and the local elections in May are considered another dangerous moment.
When details of the rally first surfaced, Johnson said he could not comment until senior official Sue Gray concluded an investigation into other allegations – which were initially denied – that he and his officials were holding parties to break the rules.
In response to calls for his resignation, he again postponed Gray’s investigation.
“I can’t predict the conclusions of the current investigation, I’ve learned enough to know that there were things we just didn’t fix properly. And I have to take responsibility,” he said.
Opponents said he had not apologized to the party itself, which Johnson said on Wednesday “technically can be said to fall within the guidelines”, but he was simply sorry he was discovered.
As parliament echoed demands for his head, Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson said he was unlikely to resign unless forced to do so by colleagues in parliament.
“He’s going to look for a way through this. He’s not the type to resign,” Gimson said.