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Britain’s Boris Johnson is clinging to power while the ‘partygate’ scandal continues to rumble

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson is speaking to students in a math class as he pays a constituency visit to Oakwood School on 10 January 2022 in Uxbridge, England.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON - The position of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking increasingly vulnerable as more reports of parties and gatherings in Downing Street emerge during periods of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, accused Johnson of breaking Covid laws amid several allegations of parties and gatherings held by government staff, some of whom attended by Johnson, during the lockdown.

In the last few days, several reports of parties have surfaced, with Downing Street apologizing to Queen Elizabeth after it emerged that two parties took place on the eve of Prince Phillip's funeral in April 2021, claiming that an employee was sent out. to buy a "suitcase of wine."

Starmer told the BBC on Sunday that Johnson had "lied" about what he called "industrial scale partying" in Downing Street.

"The facts speak for themselves and the country has decided," he said, adding that it was "blindly obvious what had happened."

"I think he broke the law, I think he's as good as admitting he broke the law," he told the BBC.

Johnson admitted to Parliament last week that he had attended a drinks party in Downing Street, the Prime Minister's office, and that he lives next door, during Britain's first Covid lockdown in May 2020, but said he thought it was a "work event."

Johnson has said that another photo showing him and his wife, as well as 17 Downing Street employees, drinking wine and eating cheese in No.10's garden at a separate event in May 2020, showed "people at work".

A number of lawmakers within Johnson's Conservative party have called on the prime minister to step down, saying his position is now untenable as public anger has grown as more reports of parties held in government buildings have surfaced. Others have questioned Johnson's judgment and work culture in Downing Street.

Johnson's closest minister in his cabinet has remained loyal so far, saying they will await the conclusions of an inquiry conducted by a senior official, Sue Gray, into whether parties and gatherings took place in various government buildings and broke Covid rules.

The results of this study may be published later in the week. Sky News has published a list of the alleged parties here.

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden reiterated this position on Sunday, commenting to the BBC that "the task for us now is how to address the underlying culture of Downing Street" and that "we need to increase our game and it needs to be addressed" , and I know the Prime Minister is obliged to address that. "

What Johnson has said

To show how far the "partygate" scandal goes, Britain's highest-ranking official to investigate the alleged parties, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, was forced to leave the investigation himself after it was revealed that a gathering was being held in his own private home. office in December 2020, which also violates the then rules.

Last week, Johnson admitted that he had attended a party advertised as a "bring your own booze" gathering in the Downing Street Garden, to which about 100 people were allegedly invited, on May 20, 2020 during Britain's first Covid -lockdown.

At this time, people in the UK were only allowed to meet one other person outside their household and had to meet outdoors, among other strict rules.

When he spoke to a packed House of Commons last week (the lower house of parliament), Johnson offered the nation his "sincere apologies," but defended himself, saying he had only attended the party for 25 minutes to "thank groups of staff." "for their hard work, and that he" implicitly thought this was a work event. "

Speaking to Parliament after Johnson's admission, opposition leader Starmer said Johnson's explanation for his involvement was "so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British public" when he urged Johnson to "do the decent thing and resign."

Is the party ending for Johnson?

While the British media has diligently tried to reveal more details about parties, where details and pictures of a number of them have been leaked to the press, the British public has become more and more angry as the gatherings inevitably took place at times when it did not was meant for people to socialize.

People who lost loved ones during the pandemic have expressed outrage over the reports of parties and felt they were deprived of precious moments with the family while politicians disregarded the rules.

Johnson, however, has not yet shown signs of considering his position in office. He has been out of the public eye in recent days due to a positive Covid test among his close family.

Whether more powerful members of his cabinet will go against Johnson in the coming days and launch a leadership challenge is now being closely monitored, but most Tory politicians have said they are awaiting the results of Sue Gray's long-awaited investigation, so far.

How public anger unfolds in local elections in Britain in May may well determine whether the Conservative Party goes against Johnson if he does not resign.

Johnson and his government have also weathered political storms before and have reaped some credit for "getting Brexit implemented." But Tory lawmakers will now assess whether they believe Johnson can win a future election, however, given low public confidence in him.

Ruth Gregory, senior British economist at Capital Economics, noted last Friday that "it's striking how quickly political momentum has changed" with Johnson likely to have gone from a position where he "feels complacent about his decision to not to increase Covid-19 restrictions in the wake of the Omicron wave "to face what she called" the most difficult days of his political career, with growing speculation that a leadership challenge is imminent. "

"With questions left over the parties at 10 Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns, the coming days, if not weeks, are likely to be marked by more political unrest," she noted, with two "flash points" ahead:

"First, the publication ... of the report investigating whether the Prime Minister broke the Covid-19 lockdown rules at Downing Street parties. Second, the resignation of any cabinet member. Whatever happens, we doubt that this period of political instability will come to a standstill. the economic recovery in the short term. The economy has performed well when uncertainty has been heightened in the past, even after the hanged parliament in 2010. "

Sterling has certainly seemed untouched by political upheavals, remained good last week against the dollar, and has risen 0.2% against the dollar to date. Monday morning was a pound worth $ 1.3675.

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