We recently learned that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson found himself in hot water again over reports of yet another party he allegedly attended at Number 10 Downing Street while the rest of his country was locked down under harsh COVID restrictions. BoJo’s office had declined to comment on the new allegations initially, telling the press that an investigation was underway and he was awaiting the results. The situation ripened quickly, however, with the British press declaring that Johnson was facing “crunch day” today when he would need to address Parliament and clear up the matter.
This morning, the big moment arrived. Johnson addressed Parliament and confirmed that he had indeed been at the “drinks party” last year and that he had made an error. He offered “heartfelt apologies” to the public and the MPs, saying that he understood the “rage” the public must feel over the perceived violation of the rules. He also confirmed his attendance at the party for a period of 25 minutes for the purpose of “thanking the staff.” He said he “believed this was a work event,” but nobody seemed to be buying that explanation. After he finished his remarks, the calls for his resignation or removal only increased in volume. (BBC)
All eyes are on Boris Johnson as he begins PMQs saying he wants to apologise.
He says he knows millions of people have suffered during the pandemic and the rage they feel with him and the government he leads when they think the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
The PM says though he cannot anticipate the conclusions of the inquiry into parties at Downing Street he knows there are things “we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility”.
The PM says when he went into the Downing Street garden, at the time he “believed this was a work event.”
In hindsight he should have sent everyone back inside and should have found some other way to thank staff, he says.
You can review the full, updated coverage of this session at the BBC link above. As of the time of this writing, it was already up to four pages of updates. The calls for his resignation from both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems have not gone away and seem to only be growing louder today. More disturbingly for Johnson, several of the MPs from his own Conservative Party sound as if they are turning their backs on him. One called his apology “worthless,” while another said that the PM’s attempt to explain this away “wasn’t good enough” and it “won’t do the trick.” So it appears that Johnson is now hemorrhaging support even among the Tories.
Even supporters of Johnson have to be looking at this dubious performance with a jaundiced eye. He kept insisting that he couldn’t comment until the results of the investigation he ordered were complete. But what precisely is being investigated? His nation mostly had one question on their minds and that was whether or not Johnson was at the party as has been alleged. Unless he’s senile, he knew if he’d been at the party and could have simply said so and apologized as soon as the news broke. He was there for nearly half an hour and he brought his wife with him. And the wording of the invitation that his Personal Secretary sent out made it clear that this was no critical business meeting.
The MPs brought forward the testimony and stories of a number of citizens who described what had happened to them on the day of the party. One woman described how she had gone into labor while Johnson and his friends were passing around the drinks trolly. Things went poorly and she had to undergo a C-section, after which she had to remain in her bed alone because her husband wasn’t allowed to come to her room because of the COVID rules Johnson imposed. Another told of how her father passed away on that day alone in his room because no visitors were allowed.
A woman named Sue Gray is conducting an investigation into the events surrounding the party. Johnson insists that he won’t be making any decisions until that investigation is complete. But the sharks appear to be circling and given how the Brits normally handle such matters, it’s beginning to sound as if they may actually hound Johnson out of office. And if he doesn’t resign voluntarily, there is a process whereby he could be removed.
It’s interesting to note the disparities between the traditions and expectations placed on elected officials in America and the UK. Over here, we’ve had members of Congress charged with serious crimes, including insider trading, but they refused to leave office until they were either convicted or given the boot at the next election. In the United Kingdom, breaking a few COVID lockdown rules and attending a party may prove to be enough to force the resignation of their most powerful elected figure.