British PM refuses to resign as report over ‘Partygate’ looms

Johnson is grilled by lawmakers ahead of the release of an official report into his alleged breaches of COVID lockdown.

Boris Johnson speaking in parliament
A screenshot from a handout video released by the UK Parliament shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the House of Commons [UK Parliamentary Recording Unit handout via EPA]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has once again defied calls to resign over his “Partygate” scandal during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons.

Johnson was grilled by UK opposition leader Keir Starmer on Wednesday before the release of an official report into allegations of partying during lockdown.

Starmer accused Johnson of changing his story over the gatherings and misleading parliament, an offence which the prime minister agreed should trigger a resignation.

Asked if he would step down, Johnson replied, “No.”

“I don’t deny it, and for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way, but the reason why he (Starmer) wants me out of the way is because he knows this government can be trusted to deliver,” he said to cheers from his Conservative lawmakers.

“We’ve taken the tough decisions, we’ve got the big calls right and we’re and in particular I am getting on with the job.”

Official probe

It is not clear when senior civil servant Sue Gray will turn in her report on the investigation into the alleged lockdown breaches to the government. Johnson has previously promised to publish it in full and to address Parliament about its findings.

“When I receive it, of course, I will do exactly what I said,” Johnson said in parliament.

Allegations that the prime minister and his staff flouted restrictions imposed on the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus have caused public anger, led some Conservative lawmakers to call for Johnson’s resignation and triggered intense infighting inside the governing party.

Protester holds a banner reading: Get your Johnson out of our democracy
Allegations that the prime minister and his staff flouted restrictions imposed on the UK to curb the spread of the coronavirus have caused public anger [Matt Dunham/AP]

Johnson has apologised for attending one event, a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020, but said he had considered the party a work gathering that fell within the rules.

Johnson’s supporters have also defended a June 2020 surprise birthday party for the prime minister inside Downing Street.

Loyal lawmaker Conor Burns said Johnson did not know about the gathering in advance.

“It was not a premeditated, organised party … He was, in a sense, ambushed with a cake,” Burns told Channel 4 News.

Johnson has urged his critics to wait for Gray’s conclusions, but his “wait and see” defence weakened on Tuesday when police said they had opened a criminal investigation into some of the gatherings.

London’s Metropolitan Police force said “a number of events” at Johnson’s Downing Street office and other government buildings met the force’s criteria for investigating the “most serious and flagrant” breaches of coronavirus rules.

Source: News Agencies