Boris Johnson party: U.K. ministers rally around PM

LONDON – Senior British government ministers, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, on Thursday voiced their support for Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson and rejected his demand to resign to attend a garden party during the country’s first coronavirus lockdown.

Several other Conservatives stuck out their tongues, waiting to see whether the crisis threatening Johnson’s premiership would abate or worsen.

Johnson apologized in the House of Commons on Wednesday for attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden and residence in May 2020. About 100 staff were invited by a top aide to the prime minister to what has been described. As a ‘socially distanced drinks’ event.

At the time, Britons were prohibited by law from meeting more than one person outside their homes as part of measures to limit the spread of the Corona virus. Millions have been cut off from family and friends and even prevented from visiting dying relatives in hospitals.

Johnson said he understood the public “outrage”, but declined to acknowledge the error, saying he considered the rally a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Johnson urged people to wait for the results of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into several alleged parties by civil servants during the pandemic. Gray, a public service veteran with a reputation as a straight shooter, is expected to report by the end of the month.

Johnson was spending Thursday holed up in Downing Street. The Prime Minister’s Office said that a scheduled visit to the Corona Virus Vaccination Center has been canceled after a family member tested positive for the Corona virus.

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said Johnson’s apology was “very sincere” – but added that the prime minister did not think he had done anything wrong.

“The prime minister has made it clear he doesn’t think he’s done anything outside the rules,” Lewis told Sky News. “If you look at what the investigation found, people will be able to take their own perspective at that time.”

Gray has no power to punish those responsible, and Johnson has not said what he would do if he was found to be wrong.

Secretary of State Liz Truss – often cited as a possible successor to Johnson – tweeted: “I stand 100% behind the PM as he is moving our country forward.”

Treasurer Chief Rishi Sunak, another potential contender for the top position, was more muted. “The PM was right to apologize and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray investigates,” he wrote on Twitter. Sunak was notably absent from the House of Commons during Johnson’s statement on Wednesday; He was 200 miles (320 kilometers) away on a visit to southwest England.

Opposition politicians say Johnson should resign for attending the party and for his previous denials of any rule-breaking.

Many conservatives fear the “Party Door” scandal could become a turning point for a leader who weathered a series of storms over his spending and moral judgment.

Some joined the opposition’s calls for Johnson to resign. Douglas Ross, the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, said Johnson’s position was “no longer acceptable”. Lawmaker Roger Gill described the prime minister as a “walking dead”.

If he does not resign, Johnson could be ousted by a vote of no-confidence among party lawmakers, which would happen if 15% of Tory lawmakers wrote letters demanding it. It is unclear how many messages have actually been sent.

Labor Home Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said the police, not just a government employee, should investigate.

“It is strange that the police have not opened any kind of broader investigation given the number of evidence about what is happening in Downing Street,” she said.

Nandy said there was “tremendous” public anger over the party’s revelations.

“Based on what I see pouring into my email this morning, I think the Prime Minister should not be so confident that he will survive this,” she said.

Many conservatives have been waiting to see how the reaction to the crisis develops in the coming days.

Conservative MP Philip Dunn said the allegations were “extremely serious”.

“I think the prime minister was right to apologize yesterday, and I think it’s right that we wait and see what the investigation will establish from Sue Gray,” he told Radio Times. And then the people will have to bear the consequences of everything that will happen.”

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