LONDON (AP), Monday’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised after an inquiry revealed that Downing Street parties were in lockdown while Britain was under British control. This represented a “serious failing” to uphold the standards required of government and to heed the sacrifices of millions during the pandemic.
Johnson refused to resign over “partygate”, promising to reform his office and insisting that his government and he can be trusted.
After Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, published interim findings regarding several gatherings in 2020-2021, he stated that he understood the situation and would fix it.
Gray concluded that failures of leadership and judgment allowed for events that were “unacceptable.”
Gray wrote that Gray is well aware of the hardships under which citizens in the country lived, worked and died while following the government’s guidelines and regulations.
She said that some of the behaviour surrounding the gatherings was difficult to justify, given the context of the pandemic and when the government asked citizens to accept life-altering restrictions.
Gray’s view inside a 10 Downing St. that was marked by excessive alcohol consumption, and staff who are afraid to talk about workplace problems is a blow for Johnson, despite Gray’s findings being limited to four of 16 events.
The police requested that her findings regarding 12 other events be withheld. They launched a criminal investigation last week into the most serious violations of coronavirus rules. Metropolitan Police said that it requested Gray’s report to be omitted from the investigation by detectives to “prevent any prejudice to our investigations.”
A June 2020 birthday party at Johnson’s Downing Street home and two other gatherings on the eve Prince Philip’s April 2021 funeral — where the widowed Queen Elizabeth II was required to stand alone — are some of the events being investigated by police.
Opponents have accused Johnson of whitewashing Gray’s report by cutting back on it.
The accusations that the prime minister and his staff lacked the necessary restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country — including holding office parties, birthday celebrations, and wine time Fridays — caused public anger and led to some Conservative lawmakers calling for Johnson’s resignation. This triggered intense internal fighting within the ruling party.
Keir Starmer, leader of Opposition Labour Party, said that the British people had made “heart-wrenching sacrifices” and suffered “a collective trauma” during pandemic.
He said, “The prime minister took all of us for fools.” He treated the sacrifices of others with contempt. He was unfit to be an officer.”
Starmer stated that many British citizens believe the prime minister should do the right thing and resign. He won’t. He is a man who doesn’t shame.
Johnson can ignore criticism from the opposition because they have a large majority of MPs. His fate will depend on how Conservative lawmakers react to his apology. Some had previously stated that they would support a no confidence vote if Gray was found to be at grave fault or had misled Parliament.
Johnson advised his critics that they wait for the results of the police investigation.
Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative legislator, stated in the House of Commons, however, that Johnson “no more has my support.”
Theresa May, former Conservative Prime Minister, was also unimpressed. Johnson, and others around him, she said, “hadn’t read the rules or didn’t know what they meant.” They didn’t believe the rules were applicable to them. Which was it?
Gray didn’t directly criticize the prime Minister, but said that there was significant learning to be taken from these events and should be addressed immediately by all levels of government.
Gray’s complete findings are not expected to be published until the police investigation is over. Max Blain, Johnson’s spokesperson, stated that the prime minister’s Office would meet with Gray’s team and police to determine “what is appropriate” for publication.
Johnson may be interviewed by detectives as part their investigation and could face a fine if found to have violated the law.
Johnson, however, tried to shift the topic from his personal woes. He marked Monday’s second anniversary of Brexit by highlighting economic opportunities outside the European Union.
Although the U.K. officially departed the 27-nation bloc Jan 31, 2020, it was still a member of the EU’s economic structures for 11 more months.
U.K.-EU trade has declined since then, but the disruption caused by the ending of frictionless trade is obscuring the economic ructions with Britain’s largest economic partner.
Johnson pledged Monday to unlock the potential benefits of Brexit. He unveiled a “Brexit Freedoms Bill” that, according to the government, will reduce red tape for British companies by amending laws that have been carried over from Britain’s years as an EU Member.
Opponents claim the bill will make it easier for government to amend laws without Parliament’s approval.
This week, the government promises to provide long-awaited details about plans to “level up” country by providing economic opportunities to economically disadvantaged regions.
Johnson also plans to make a diplomatic push in an effort to reduce tensions between Russia, Ukraine. According to his office, the prime minister will call Vladimir Putin, Russian President, by telephone later Monday. He will also visit Ukraine Tuesday in an effort to stop Russia from invading its neighbor.
Some political observers believe Gray’s partial and circumscribed report could give Johnson at most a temporary reprieve against calls for his ouster.
Will Walden, a former Johnson aide, said that “it’s a mess.” It’s likely to be bad for democracy but it can be beneficial for the PM.