Will Boris Johnson resign? | The Independent

Boris Johnson faces one of the most politically perilous moments of his tenure as Prime Minister as he continues to face scrutiny over his own involvement in a series of No 10 parties at the amid England’s lockdowns to fight coronavirus.

The Prime Minister initially dodged questions about whether he attended an event on May 20, 2020, after a bombshell email leaked earlier this week provided evidence that more than 100 Downing Street workers had been invited to attend the party and “bring your own booze”.

No 10 deadlocked questions about this party – pointing to senior civil servant Sue Gray’s Whitehall inquiry into rule-breaking events – but anger has only grown among Tory MPs and Conservative-leaning newspapers.

Finally, during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons midday on Wednesday, Mr Johnson addressed the issue, confirming that he attended the Garden Gathering for around 25 minutes with the intention of thanking his staff for their efforts during the pandemic while claiming, somewhat improbably, “I implicitly believed it was a work event.”

He apologized, expressed empathy for the public’s fury in light of the personal sacrifices millions had made and implored his critics to wait for the outcome of Ms Gray’s investigation before wearing a judgement.

It cut little ice with Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer, who derided the Prime Minister as a ‘pathetic sight of a short-handed man’ and ‘a man without shame’ his mea culpa as ‘worthless’ after ‘months of deceit and deceit’ and called on him to resign, the disdain seething in his voice prompting laughter from across Parliament as members of Mr Johnson’s front bench sat stone-faced behind their Covid masks.

“Why does he think the rules don’t apply to him?” asked Sir Keir in disbelief, expressing the thoughts of millions.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the Commons, also called on Mr Johnson to ‘do what is decent and step down’.

Support for the embattled Prime Minister from Cabinet colleagues like Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has since been voiced, without much evident enthusiasm.

Since then, news of more parties has emerged, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that Downing Street staff attended two separate events on April 16, 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral, which saw the Queen sit alone under strict Covid rules as she bid farewell to her 73 year old husband.

Both events are said to have left parties for staff working in the Prime Minister’s internal team. One was believed to have been held for James Slack, then Mr Johnson’s communications director, and the other for his personal photographer.

Witnesses said ‘excessive booze’ was drunk, attendees danced to DJ music by a special adviser past midnight, and at one point a member of staff was dispatched to the local branch of Co-op to fill a suitcase with bottles of wine.

Ahead of this latest outrage, a poll on Tuesday night showed two-thirds of the public (66 per cent) thought the prime minister should quit because of his role in rule-breaking parties.

But will Boris Johnson go? Calls for him to step down are already becoming deafening.

On Tuesday evening, Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, warned: “If [the PM] breached his own guidelines, if he did not tell the truth then this is a hugely important matter… If the Prime Minister has misled Parliament then he must resign.

Despite Jacob Rees-Mogg’s astonishing dismissal of Mr Ross as ‘a lighthearted figure’ during a BBC interview Newsnight, his comments are a damning condemnation of Mr Johnson’s wayward leadership.

But, so far, the Prime Minister has continued to push the increasingly preposterous defense that he cannot comment on the allegations until Ms Gray’s inquiry is complete. The results of this investigation (no timeline has been publicly announced) will be crucial in determining its future. If he finds he broke lockdown rules at rally No 10, calls for his resignation will only intensify.

Ahead of this heated PM’s Q&A, Tory backbench MP Nigel Mills said his position would be ‘untenable’ and there would be talk of resigning if he was at the May event 2020. Perhaps, but any frequent observer of the Johnson administration could point to the prime minister’s reluctance to sack his own ministers for breaching the ministerial code and expect him to try to ride out the current storm.

It also remains to be seen whether the Metropolitan Police launch a formal investigation into the breach of the rules in No 10. After reports emerged on Monday of the May 20, 2020 rally, the force said they were ‘in touch’ with the Cabinet Office about “alleged”. Breaches of Downing Street Health Protection Regulations”.

Ministers have previously said Ms Gray’s inquiry will be ‘put on hold’ if the Met formally investigates. But even if the force goes this route and wrongdoing is found, it is by no means certain that Mr Johnson will step down as Prime Minister.

There are many different paths to a potential resignation, but just two years after winning a landslide in a general election, he is unlikely to step down on his own. As conservative commentators have already pointed out, the party has a brutal record of removing leaders, it no longer sees an electoral trump card, and a forced exit is the likeliest route for any resignations.

Either the Cabinet could launch a full-scale revolt with senior ministers telling the Prime Minister to step down (perhaps unlikely) or 15% of Conservative Party MPs could submit letters of no confidence to the Prime Minister in Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Conservative backbench committee.

The number of letters submitted at any given time is a closely guarded secret by Sir Graham but, if the required number is reached, it would trigger a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson and his post as Prime Minister would be at stake. Theresa May, whose the post of prime minister received a fatal blow because of his unfortunate electoral gamble, survived a vote of confidence in December 2018, but finally resigned six months later.

So far, however, only five Tory MPs have publicly said they have submitted a letter and Mr Johnson’s allies are adamant he is ‘going nowhere’, with one minister insisting this week: ‘The Prime Minister is still the confidence of the people of this country and he did it two years ago with the greatest majority in decades”.

Leave a Comment