Boris Johnson faces ‘partygate’ grilling in parliament

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Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure from opposition parties, his own party and the British public over the reported rule-breaking Christmas party.© Matt Dunham/AP Photo/picture alliance 
Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure from opposition parties, his own party and the British public over the reported rule-breaking Christmas party.The British prime minister will have to explain why a Downing Street garden party was held in 2020 during a COVID lockdown. Opposition lawmakers have demanded he “come clean.”British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face lawmakers for the first time on Wednesday since it emerged that a lockdown-busting party was held at his official residence.According to a leaked email as seen by broadcaster ITV on Monday, a “bring your own” alcohol garden party took place at Downing Street on May 20, 2020, amid strict restrictions in the rest of the country.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who was cleared to leave isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, was set to ask Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions to “come clean” about the party.

Johnson has so far declined to say whether he attended the gathering.

Even members of Johnson’s own party the Conservatives want him to explain what happened.

“He knows whether he was there or not. Just come out and say what happened,” Nigel Mills, a Conservative lawmaker told the BBC.

A ‘bring your own booze’ party

London’s Metropolitan Police were in contact with the Cabinet Office about the May 2020 gathering, raising the possibility of a more serious, criminal probe.

According to ITV, an email was sent by Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds to over 100 employees.

“After what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening,” Reynolds said in the email. “Please join us from 6 p.m. and bring your own booze!”

Around 40 staff eventually gathered in the garden for the party, including Johnson and his wife Carrie, according to ITV.

At the time, members of the public could only meet one person from another household outdoors, schools were shut to most pupils, pubs and restaurants were closed and people were prevented from bidding farewell in-person to dying relatives.

More lockdown-breaching gatherings at Downing Street

Johnson’s premiership has been tarnished by several accusations of lockdown breaches that occurred during 2020.

It includes Christmas parties in November and December 2020.

The event in May happened on the same day the government reminded people that group gatherings were banned indoors and out.

Johnson has previously denied knowledge that any rules were broken in Downing Street, but the latest accusations appear to directly contradict those claims.

Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, was already investigating allegations of five parties that were held in governmental departments last year during lockdowns. Her probe has now been widened to include the latest allegations.

Will Boris Johnson resign?

The investigation will “establish the facts and if wrongdoing is established there will be requisite disciplinary action taken,” Paymaster General Michael Ellis told lawmakers Tuesday.

Ellis was also adamant that “the prime minister is going nowhere,” as MPs called for him to quit or be forced out.

Two snap opinion polls suggested a majority of the public believed Johnson should step down.

A YouGov poll of 5,391 people on Tuesday found 56% of people thought Johnson should quit.

A survey by Savanta ComRes showed 66% thought Johnson should resign, up 12 percentage points from a poll taken in December after the reports of Christmas parties.

It said 42% of those who voted for Johnson in 2019 thought he should quit, up 9 points.

lo/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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