British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is fighting for his political life following revelations about his role in parties during a strict lockdown, faces one of the most crucial weeks of his term – and one that will probably decide whether he remains at 10 Downing Street, or is forced to resign.
Johnson apologized earlier this month after it emerged he and members of his Downing Street staff had broken lockdown rules – with Johnson attending a ‘bring your own booze’ party in May 2020 in the gardens of the Prime Minister’s residence. Johnson claimed he was only there briefly to greet staff and thought it was a work-related event.
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“Mr. President, I want to apologize, I know that millions of people across the country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months. I know the anguish they have gone through, unable to make the grieving their loved ones, unable to live their lives the way they want or do the things they love,” a gloomy Johnson told the House of Commons.
Since then, further revelations have emerged, including that parties were held on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh – for which Downing Street has since apologized at Buckingham Palace. An investigation by civil servant Sue Gray is now said to cover a dozen parties held during the pandemic.
Despite the apology, Johnson continued to defend himself, saying he thought it was a business event and was unaware it broke lockdown rules.
The scandal has sparked outrage across the country, with Britons who missed funerals or the chance to say goodbye to dying relatives and friends venting their anger at the man whose government imposed the restrictions – for then flout them himself.
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Moreover, it leads to questions whether Johnson lied to the House of Commons in his early statements about his behavior. Knowingly misleading the House is considered a grave offense to the UK Parliament, and ministers who have done so should resign.
As more details came out, the poll numbers for Johnson were brutal, with polls also showing a double-digit lead for the opposition Labor party over his Conservative party – leading to more pressure to resign its own members. party.
Former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis addressed the House of Commons and said to Johnson, “In the name of God, go ahead.”
Separately, some Tory MPs have complained of bullying and intimidation by government whips to pressure members into backing Johnson. William Wragg said he intended to go to the police next week about the driving. Meanwhile, Tory MP Christian Wakeford has defected to Labor over the scandal.
Gray is expected to complete his investigation into the revelations next week. Johnson’s survival rests largely on the findings of Gray’s report. That could either take the pressure off Johnson or break the camel’s back.
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Due to Johnson’s large majority in the Commons, he is unlikely to be ousted by the House as a whole, but if 54 members submit letters of no confidence to the 1922 party committee, it will trigger a vote on the issue. among party members. . Some lawmakers have already submitted letters, although the number is unclear. It’s also unclear whether Johnson would survive that vote, but even if he did, his position would be weakened and he could still step down.
If Johnson resigns or is ousted by his own party, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are seen as two of the most likely candidates to replace him.
Peter Aitken of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.