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Faced with multiple accusations relating to the non-respect of the rules of confinement at 10 Downing Street in 2020, Boris Johnson wavers despite an apology presented to Parliament on Wednesday. The Prime Minister is challenged by the Labor opposition and by members of his own camp, where Tories want to organize a vote of no confidence to make him resign.
Soon the exit for the main craftsman of Brexit? Boris Johnson has been in turmoil for several weeks, following multiple cases revealed by the British press concerning the non-respect of the rules of confinement at 10 Downing Street in the spring and winter of 2020.
Latest: pots were organized every Friday in Downing Street during confinement, said Saturday, January 15 the newspaper The Mirror. Supporting photos, the tabloid explains that “throughout the pandemic, Downing Street staff organized ‘wine Fridays’, Boris Johnson regularly attending these meetings. (…) The Prime Minister encouraged his employees to ‘let off steam’ despite the ban on meeting indoors, in accordance with confinement rules.” And to add that these “Friday aperitifs” were “programmed in the electronic diaries of about fifty employees of No. 10, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each week”.
This affair, which ends up weakening Boris Johnson, comes to punctuate a month of revelations having constantly put the Prime Minister on the front of the stage: the British press first revealed and was indignant at the holding of a clandestine party at 10 Downing Street in December 2020, when Britons were under health restrictions. Boris Johnson, who then claimed not to have been present at this party, promised sanctions.
A week later, The Guardian and The Independent revealed that “Boris Johnson joined No 10 staff for a party in Downing Street” in May 2020, during the UK’s first lockdown. “These were meetings of people at work talking about work,” justified the Prime Minister a few days later.
But it’s the ITV channel which set fire to the powder by revealing, on January 10, that the invitation to the party – titled “Bring your own booze” – was emailed “to around 100 people by Boris Johnson’s personal secretary, Martin Reynolds, and the party was attended by around 40 people. guests, including the head of government”.
“Politically, the Prime Minister is a living dead”
The “Partygate” earned Boris Johnson “from the bottom of his heart” his apologies on Wednesday in the House of Commons, saying about the garden party in May 2020: “I implicitly believed that it was a professional event .”
The Labor opposition replied that he had to resign. “The party is over, Boris Johnson,” said Labor leader Keir Starmer. “After months of deception, (here) is the pathetic sight of a man who has come to the end of the road. His defense – he didn’t realize he was at a party – is so ridiculous that it is insulting to the British people.”
Faced with calls for his resignation, Boris Johnson explained that he was unable to anticipate the results of the internal investigation carried out by Sue Gray, permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, into several events organized at 10 Downing Street during periods of confinement.
This investigation will last at least several weeks. “This is not a formal parliamentary investigation, an investigation by a judge (…), so it (will) not be the last word”, esteem with Sky News Catherine Haddon, policy officer at the Institute for Government. “However, the report could contain elements so explosive and damning that they would cause a political crisis for the Prime Minister. He will then have to (…) obtain enough support to remain at the helm of the country.”
And support is currently scarce for Boris Johnson. His end could be precipitated even before the conclusions of the investigation of Sue Gray so much of the deputies of his own political camp seem to want his resignation. “It seems to me, I’m afraid, that politically the Prime Minister is a walking dead,” said Tory MP Sir Roger Gale.
Others, like Tory MP William Wragg, consider Boris Johnson’s position “untenable”. “It is up to the Conservative Party, if not the Prime Minister himself, to make that decision,” also said on the BBC the one who is the vice-president of the 1922 Committee.
It is moreover this powerful committee, in charge of the parliamentary organization of the Conservative Party, which could push the Prime Minister to resign. Several Tory MPs have already sent a letter of no-confidence to the 1922 Committee, and it takes a total of 54 – or 15% of the Tory group’s members in Parliament – to trigger a vote of no-confidence that would likely lead to Boris Johnson resigning.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss mentioned to succeed Boris Johnson
This increasingly tense situation within the conservative camp at least indicates that the Prime Minister has fallen “out of favor” vis-à-vis his peers, as explained to RFI Sophie Loussouarn, doctor specializing in the political history of the United Kingdom: “Boris Johnson fell into disgrace after winning an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons in the last general election, that is to say the largest victory for the conservatives since 1987. (…) This uprising is a humiliation for (him), who has lost the confidence of some of his deputies”.
In his current situation, Boris Johnson is on an ejection seat and the talks to succeed him as Tory leader started long before the accusations he has been facing for weeks, as The Independent reported last December.
Two names are coming up with insistence to run for the post of Prime Minister: the Chancellor of the Exchequer – the Minister in charge of Finance and Treasury – Rishi Sunak and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Liz Truss, “one of the most experienced ministers ( of the government) Johnson” according to Politico.
I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.
The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.
—Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) January 12, 2022
Absent from the House of Commons on Wednesday when Boris Johnson apologized, Rishi Sunak is suspected by several British media of distancing himself from the Prime Minister by having given him timorous support in a tweet: “(Boris Johnson) did well to apologize and I support his request for patience;”
In the immediate future, Boris Johnson intends to tackle the “underlying culture” in Downing Street which has allowed parties during periods of confinement. According to the Sunday Times, the Prime Minister will soon announce measures “to save his post”, among which the prohibition of alcohol in the offices of 10 Downing Street. Of which he remains the tenant for the moment, even in the turmoil.