UK: Cabinet backs Johnson despite admission of breaking lockdown

By Hamed Chapman


London, (The Muslim News): Virtually all of Boris Johnson’s cabinet have lined up to express varying degrees of support for the Prime Minister in the face of several Tory MPs joining opposition leaders in calling for him to resign after he admitted attending an illegal Downing Street party and making a rather convoluted apology.


Newspaper front page headlines also piled pressure on Johnson Thursday as the Prime Minister decided to cancel one of his regular visits to a vaccination centre this time in Burney and with it what would have been his first pooled TV interview.


“The Prime Minister will no longer be visiting Lancashire today due to a family member testing positive for coronavirus,” his office announced even though he was not required to isolate if he is fully vaccinated.


When apologising in Parliament on Wednesday over the scandal over the latest party breach of lockdown rules, Johnson said he had “learned enough to know that there were things that we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility.”


Although insisting he did not realise there was a party going on when he went into the garden of Downing Street on May 20, 2020, he admitted “with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside” and appealed that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into what is now thought to be at least six other Government parties.


In response, Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, described Johnson as being “the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road” after months of deceit and deception.


“The Prime Minister’s defence that he did not realise that he was at a party is so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British public. He has finally been forced to admit what everyone knew—that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street.”


“Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?” Starmer asked.


SNP leader in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford, also said it was an open and shut case and the Prime Minister had broken the law but “feels no sense of shame for his actions.”


“Trust has been lost; the public will not forgive or forget. If the Prime Minister has no sense of shame, the Tory Back Benchers must act to remove him. They know that the damage is done. This weak and contemptuous Prime Minister can no longer limp on,” Blackford said.


Among a succession of other MPs, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey asked if Johnson could explain why the only person to have resigned so far over the lockdown scandals was his former spokeswoman “Allegra Stratton, a woman, while he, the man who sanctioned and attended at least one party in 10 Downing Street, still sits in his place?”


“Advisers advise and Ministers decide. So will the Prime Minister, for the good of the country, accept that the party is over and decide to resign?” Davey said.


Among senior Tories to call for Johnson’s resignation have been the Scottish Conservative Leader, Douglas Ross, who told STV News that he “could not continue as Prime Minister” after admitting he went to an illegal party and that “regretfully, I have to say that his position is no longer tenable.”


Yet, despite the backlash and humiliation, minister after minister after a hesitant start eventually sent a succession of tweets and WhatsApp messages offering different degrees of support for the Prime Minister and appeals to wait for Gray’s eventual report into the breaches.


Several MPs and journalists, including the chief political correspondent of The Times Henry Zeffman have questioned claims about Gray’s report being ‘independent’ since she may be independent-minded but is a serving Permanent Secretary effectively investigating her boss.


[Photo: PM Boris Johnson apologising for the party in Downing Street garden during Prime Minister Questions on 12 January. Photo: ©UK Parliament_Jessica Taylor]


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