Boris Johnson Faces Resignation Calls Over New Pandemic Party Claims

By BLOOMBERG

Boris Johnson is facing opposition calls for his resignation over an alleged drinks party in his Downing Street office while pandemic curbs were in place, renewing a sense of crisis around the U.K. premier.

The prime minister’s hopes of a reset after a torrid end to 2021 were ruined after it emerged officials in his team were invited to a drinks party in his office garden in May 2020, when such gatherings were banned during the first wave of Covid-19 infections, according to an email seen by ITV News. 

The Metropolitan Police is aware of allegations of rule-breaking on that date and is liaising with the government, according to a police spokesperson.

It’s the latest in a string of allegations about rule-breaking parties, which are already being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray. She is due to report her findings shortly, a moment that poses real risk for Johnson just as he tries to get his premiership back on course.

The furor over the parties has severely damaged his reputation and his ruling Conservative Party’s standing in the polls. It also comes as the U.K. government wrestles with a record wave of infections triggered by the omicron Covid-19 variant.

Labour Criticism

“I think he should go,” the main opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said in a pooled TV clip. “He’s lost the confidence of the British public with his lies, his deceit, and his breaking of his own rules.”

Johnson himself has not denied being at the alleged party. When asked if he was in attendance on Monday, Johnson said: “All that as you know is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.”

At the time of the alleged party, Johnson’s government was issuing strict orders to the public about adhering to lockdown rules, which allowed people to meet only one other person outdoors in a public place.

The message regarding the May 20 gathering was sent to more than 100 staff by the prime minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, and about 40 people ultimately attended the event, the ITV reported.

Long-Running Saga

Johnson will be hoping the latest development will not do any further significant damage to his popularity, given there has already been a long-running media saga of reports of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.

There’s another source of potential goodwill for the prime minister in the fact that his government is clearly putting England on a trajectory of out of coronavirus restrictions, as more evidence emerges that omicron may not be as severe as previous strains

Defending the government on the morning broadcast round, health minister Edward Argar declined to comment on the alleged party, saying the Gray investigation needed to be completed first.

But that position drew criticism from former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson.

“Nobody needs an official to tell them if they were at a boozy shindig in their own garden,” Davidson said on Twitter. “People are (rightly) furious.”