ROUNDUP / ‘The party is over’: Johnson under pressure like never before because of garden party
10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister’s residence in London. © palinchakjr / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
LONDON (dpa-AFX) – Despite an apology after a lockdown garden party in his official residence, the political future of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hangs by a thinner thread than ever before. The opposition loudly demanded Johnson’s resignation in parliament in London on Wednesday.
It is now important for the prime minister whether his own Conservative Party supports him – or lets it fall. The mood among the Tories is catastrophic for the 57-year-old, the media reported, with reference to critical statements by numerous Conservative MPs. In this environment, Johnson for the first time indicated personal consequences if an ongoing internal investigation comes to the conclusion that Corona rules have been broken in Downing Street.
“I would like to apologize,” said Johnson at the beginning of his 45-minute appearance in parliament. Millions of people across the country would have made great sacrifices. “I know the anger you feel at me and the government I run when you think that on Downing Street itself, the rules are not being followed properly by the people who make the rules.”
This was preceded by reports of a garden party at Johnson’s official residence on May 20, 2020 during the first lockdown. The broadcaster ITV quoted an invitation from Johnson’s office manager to about 100 employees. “Bring your own alcohol,” the email said.
Johnson now admitted for the first time to have participated in the event. However, he claimed that he had not seen any rule break. “When I went to this garden shortly after 6:00 p.m. on May 20, 2020 to thank groups of staff before going back to my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I strongly believed this was a working meeting” said Johnson. In retrospect, however, he should have acted differently.
The opposition responded with laughter. For the first time, Labor leader Keir Starmer called on the prime minister to resign. Johnson was a man without shame, said the opposition leader. “The party’s over, Prime Minister,” said Starmer. “The only question is, will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or will he do the decent thing and step down?”
The garden party isn’t the only Downing Street event reportedly breaking corona rules. The famous playwright Shakespeare already knew: “The rare festivals are just pleasant.”
Public opinion has long since turned against the prime minister. It was easy to ridicule on social media that Johnson couldn’t tell a party apart from a work meeting even when he was there himself. The airline Ryanair put the words “I don’t know I’m at a party” in the premier’s mouth and tweeted a drawing of Johnson in a party hat between dancing guests. The satire account of the Downing Street-based cat Larry shared an old photo of half-naked, partying English soccer stars with the cynical comment “England squad enjoying a work meeting” on Twitter.
Johnson’s resignation now seems off the table for the time being, an election is scheduled for 2024. That leaves the Conservative Party. “Today’s admission may have bought him time,” commented BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg. In fact, Johnson is begging his party to wait for the results of the internal investigation.
There’s a rumble behind the scenes. Since the garden party became public, Johnson has received little public support from its own ranks. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby noted “booming silence”. Unlike usual, there were no comments or boos against Starmer or other opposition politicians on Wednesday. On the contrary: With Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, who is considered to be Johnson’s possible successor, the second most important Tory politician was missing from the government bench. He preferred to visit the town of Ilfracombe in southwest England.
Several Tory MPs said their mailboxes were overflowing with email from angry voters. In order to vote Johnson out, 15 percent of the 360 Conservative MPs had to express their distrust in letters. That makes 54 parliamentarians. In the meantime, it cannot be ruled out that the necessary threshold will be reached./bvi/DP/eas
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