UK: Tory MPs start to turn on Johnson

By Hamed Chapman and Ahmed J Versi


London, (The Muslim News): Several more Conservative MPs, including the Prime Minister’s predecessor, publicly hit out against Boris Johnson Monday following the publication of an outline of an interim report that found a succession of gatherings held at Downing Street “should not have been allowed to take place.”

The most damning came from Theresa May, who said people had a right to expect Johnson to have understood the rules and to follow them, but the update report by senior civil servant Sue Gray shows he was not following the rules.

Either the Prime Minister had not read them, or he did not understand them, or he thought they did not apply to him. Which was it? asked May, the first of ten senior Tories to voice criticism about Johnson’s behaviour and the way he ran his office that has led to a police criminal investigation.

Opposition party leaders, including Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford and Lib Dem’s Sir Ed Davey, all said that Johnson was unfit for office and should resign. Blackford was also ordered by Speaker to leave the Chamber for accusing the Prime Minister of misleading Parliament.

Gray, the Cabinet Office Second Permanent Secretary, revealed that 12 gatherings out of 16 held during Covid-19 lockdown restriction over the past two years were being investigated by the Met where there were “failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office.”

“A number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded,” she said.

Gray’s report was critical of the alcohol culture.

“The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every government department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace,” she said.

Met Police have been handed more than 300 photographs of Downing Street parties.

Catherine Roper, the police commander leading the investigation, confirmed that the Met had received “a bundle of material provided” on Friday including about 500 pieces of paper and more than 300 photographs.

“Firstly, I want to say: sorry. Sorry for the things we simply did not get right and sorry for the way that this matter has been handled. It is no use saying that this or that was within the rules. It is no use saying that people were working hard,” Johnson said at the beginning of making a statement to MPs,

“It is not enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn. And while the Metropolitan Police must yet complete their investigation – and that means there are no details of specific events in Sue Gray’s report – I, of course, accept Sue Gray’s general findings in full, and above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.”

In response, Starmer said that the national suffering from Covid would “forever be tainted by the behaviour of this Conservative Prime Minister by routinely breaking the rules he set. The Prime Minister took us all for fools. He held people’s sacrifice in contempt. He showed himself unfit for office.”

“First, the Prime Minister said there were no parties. Then he said he was sickened and furious about the parties. Then it turned out he was there. Rather than come clean, every step of the way he has offended the public’s intelligence. He’s fallen back on his usual excuse – it’s everybody’s fault but his.”

The Labour Leader put the onus on Tory MPs to oust their leader saying that whatever their politics “honesty and decency matter. Our great democracy depends on it. And cherishing and nurturing British democracy is what it means to be patriotic.”

“There are members opposite who know that. And they know the Prime Minister is incapable of it. The question they must ask themselves is what are they going to do about it? They can go on degrading themselves. Eroding trust in politics. And insulting the sacrifice of the British public.”

Following Prime Minister’s statement, No10 Spokesperson said: “Given the police have said they are investigating a number of events, it would not be appropriate to comment further while the Met’s investigation is ongoing.

“But, at the end of the process, the Prime Minister will ask Sue Gray to update her work in light of what is found. He will publish that update.

“However the Prime Minister is clear we must not judge an ongoing investigation and his focus now is on addressing the general findings.”

[Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson making statement on Sue Gray’s report in the House of Commons 31 Jan 2022. Photograph:  ©UK Parliament_Jessica Taylor]

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