Home » British PM Johnson Facing Crisis As Nation Reacts To Government Parties Held During COVID Lockdowns

British PM Johnson Facing Crisis As Nation Reacts To Government Parties Held During COVID Lockdowns

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a crisis in his country and government as revelations of secret parties with administration officials during COVID-19 lockdown rules continue to leak to the public.

Reports of a 2020 Christmas party broke last week when The Daily Mirror reported that between 40 and 50 members of Johnson’s staff gathered at least twice for celebrations while the rest of the country observed strict government-imposed lockdown protocols. One source who claimed knowledge of the party called it “a Covid nightmare.”

British news channel ITV earlier this week bolstered that report when it released a leaked behind-the-scenes video of a government press conference rehearsal, during which officials joked about a “fictional party” that allegedly happened on Dec. 18 last year. The second alleged party occurred on Nov. 27 to see off a colleague.

In this photo issued by UK Parliament, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

“This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced,” then-Press Secretary Allegra Stratton said to a small group of reporters, joking “I went home” and “It was just cheese and wine.”

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But the BBC previously reported that a party did take place at the time – just two days after Johnson’s administration banned most indoor gatherings of two or more people. The alleged government Christmas party included “several dozen” people in attendance. Johnson himself is not accused of attending either party.

An anti-Conservative Party protester holds a placard with an image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson including the words “Now Partygate” backdropped by the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was “furious” after a leaked video showed senior members of his staff joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Opposition leader Kier Starmer of the Labour Party seized upon the revelation to sharply criticize the ruling party, saying the prime minister should be “ashamed.”

“Millions of people now think the prime minister was taking them for fools and that they were lied to. They’re right, aren’t they?” Starmer asked Johnson during the prime minister’s weekly question session.

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Johnson said he was “furious” to see the clip and apologized “unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up and down the country.”

“I apologize for the impression it gives,” Johnson told the House of Commons. Johnson said he had ordered Britain’s top civil servant, Simon Case, to investigate and anyone found to have broken the rules would be disciplined.

FILE – Britain’s COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton attends the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. A leaked video that shows staff members in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party last year is adding fuel to allegations that government officials flouted coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else. A video aired late Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 by broadcaster ITV showed then-press secretary Allegra Stratton appearing to joke about an illicit party at the prime minister’s Downing Street office. (Adrian Dennis/Pool Photo via AP, File)

But reports soon roped Johnson into the gatherings, claiming that his staff helped organize the party, which had wine, food, games, and a gift exchange.

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The public outcry turned swiftly on Johnson: People have demanded answers and otherwise vented their frustration in creative ways, such as a poem on the London subway titled “Downing Street December” that mocked the party for “one rule for them and one for me.” A Facebook event for a Christmas “rave” at 10 Downing Street has gathered 170,000 “attending” and 231,000 “interested,” The Express reported.

In this photo issued by UK Parliament, Britain’s Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

Johnson has already faced pressure from some corners of his party for reports that the country will resume lockdown this winter amid other criticism of how Johnson has handled issues of corruption and his party’s crushing defeats in recent local by-elections that saw conservatives lose six of the seven seats up for grabs.

A dozen party ministers had written letters of no confidence in November, weeks before news of the lockdown-defying parties whipped up anger among the public.

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Senior Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said “the buck stops at the top” and called for Johnson to provide definitive answers regarding the parties.

Under party rules, a leadership contest triggers if 15% of sitting Conservative MPs write a letter to the chair of the committee demanding one, according to The Independent.

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In a call between Bolton West Conservative MP Chris Green and a Manchester radio show, Green refused to directly answer if he had lost confidence in the Prime Minister. He instead paused awkwardly and ultimately said “I think the silence does speak volumes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.