by Jill Lawless | The Associated Press
LONDON – An investigation report released on Wednesday blamed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior leaders for allowing boozy government parties to break Britain’s COVID-19 lockdown rules, and for allowing boozy government parties when Johnson said he had committed the breaches. Took “full responsibility”, he insisted that he would not resign.
Revelations that Johnson and his staff repeatedly flouted sanctions imposed on Britain in 2020 and 2021 sparked outrage across the country and asked Johnson’s opponents to step down over the scandal known as “Partygate” Went.
Most of the lawmakers from Johnson’s governing Conservative Party stand with him for now, and it is not yet clear whether senior civil servant Sue Grey’s report will change, despite detailed descriptions of alcohol-filled cells in the building where the prime minister is located. Ministers both live and work.
Gray examined 16 gatherings attended by Johnson and his staff while UK residents were barred from socializing, or even visiting relatives who were sick and dying, because of coronavirus restrictions .
Gray’s report concluded that “the senior leadership team … must take responsibility” for the rule-breaking culture. He said there has been a “failure of leadership and judgment” in the prime minister’s 10 Downing St.
“People in the most junior positions attended meetings that their seniors attended, or actually organized,” she said.
A separate police investigation resulted in fines for 83 people – including Johnson – making him the first British prime minister found to have broken the law while in office.
Speaking to lawmakers after the report was published, Johnson said he “took full responsibility for what happened” and was sorry – but denied he deliberately broke any rules. He said he was “humble” and had “learned a lesson” but it was time to “move on” and focus on Britain’s battered economy and the war in Ukraine.
Critics, some of them in the Conservative Party, have said that Johnson lied to parliament about the events. Ministers who deliberately mislead Parliament are expected to resign.
Johnson denied lying. He insisted that when he told parliament last year that no rules had been broken and there were no parties, “this was what I believed to be true.”
Johnson attended several events mentioned in Gray’s report, including a June 2020 birthday party, for which he was fined 50 pounds ($63). He told a news conference: “I believed they were work events.”
British media and opposition politicians have found it difficult to square off with staff members’ accounts of “bring-your-own-booz” parties and regular “Wine Time Fridays” at the Downing Street office amid the pandemic.
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said that Gray’s report was a “criminal list” and that Johnson’s government “treated the sacrifice of the British people with utter contempt.”
Grey’s mandate did not allow him to complete the sentence. Much of his 37-page report is devoted to a detailed account of events, including a May 2020 party in Downing Street Garden in which “the prime minister brought cheese and wine from his flat” and a party next month in which “a person was ill” and “there was a minor dispute between two other persons.”
At another party held the night before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, garden merriers broke the swing of Johnson’s baby son, Wilf, and partyed until 4 a.m.
Reports include emails and WhatsApp messages suggesting that staff members knew they were breaking the rules. One invitation was changed from “Wine and Cheese Evening” to “Year End Meeting with Wine and Cheese”. On another occasion, an employee warned that journalists would be in the building for a news conference and that people should avoid “walking around waving wine bottles”.
In measured civil service language, Gray criticized the behavior of those involved. She said there were “many instances of lack of respect and poor behavior of safety and sanitation workers”, which were “unacceptable”.
“Many would be dismayed that this kind of behavior took place at the heart of the government on this scale,” Gray wrote. “The public has a right to expect the highest standards of behavior in such places and clearly what happened was far less than that.”
Johnson clings to power despite the scandal, partly because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has diverted public and political attention. Some conservatives argue that it is too early to oust Johnson, whatever his flaws.
Conservatives have also tried to shrug off criticism that the Labor starer is also facing a police investigation for having beer and takeout curry with colleagues in April 2021. He insisted the meal was part of a work day and didn’t break any rules but said he would resign if the police fined him.
Now that Gray and the police have completed their investigation, Johnson’s fate lies in the hands of the Conservative Party, which has a history of ousting politicians who become debtors. Tory lawmakers say they have received angry messages from voters, and many are uncomfortable defending the serial rule breaking.
Johnson faces scrutiny by the House of Commons Standards Committee over whether he lied to Parliament. And Gray’s findings could revive calls from Conservative lawmakers for a no-confidence vote in the leader who won a sizable parliamentary majority in 2019. Under party rules, such a vote is triggered if 15% of party MPs – currently 54 – write a letter calling for one.
If Johnson loses such a vote, he will be replaced as Conservative leader and prime minister. It is not clear how many letters have been submitted so far, although another was submitted on Wednesday. “I am now unable to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt and feel it is in the public interest to resign now,” Conservative legislator Julian Sturdy said.
Johnson was warmly received by Tory lawmakers at a private meeting in parliament on Wednesday evening. Those present described him as serious and friendly.
“He totally gets the mood,” said legislator Jonathan Gullis.
But another conservative, Tobias Ellwood, said in the House of Commons that Johnson had lost his support.
“I have politely asked my colleagues a question, ‘Are you ready to defend this behavior in public day and night? They said.