UK PM is facing calls to step down at Downing Street garden party amid coronavirus lockdown
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted to facing increasing pressure to leave after he briefly attended a colleague gathering in Downing Street Gardens during the 2020 lockdown.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood before MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday, facing calls for his resignation. The opposition accused him of knowingly breaking his own lockdown rules while attending events with Downing Street staff.
What happened to Downing Street?
A photo from May 15, 2020 shows Johnson and colleagues sitting in a Downing Street garden on a warm early summer evening; what appears to be several bottles of wine and a cheese board on the table.
Originally obtained by The Guardian, the image shows Johnson sitting next to his wife Kelly Johnson, accompanied by two other advisers. In the distance, four other colleagues can be seen sitting at another table, while nine staff members converse on the lawn. The Prime Minister’s spokesman responded to the story, saying “The Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including brief talks with the then Health and Wellness Minister [Matt Hancock] and his team in the garden after a press conference. “When asked, Johnson also claimed people were talking about jobs. Recently, there have also been about 100 people invited by email to “Social Distancing Drinks in Garden 10” Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds representing the Prime Minister. Witnesses said Johnson and his wife were among 30 people who attended the gathering on May 20. Speaking on Wednesday, the prime minister told lawmakers that he “Walked into that garden just after 6pm on May 20, 2020 and thanked a group of staff,” but “implicitly thought it was a work event.”
What exactly is Boris Johnson accused of?
The events of May 2020 took place in the midst of a harsh Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, which prohibited socialising. Government guidelines state that people in England can only meet one person outside their household when exercising.
While ministers suggested the events were allowed because those present were already in close contact with each other because they were colleagues, the nature of the gatherings raised questions about their legality. The events of May were by no means the only occasion on which the Prime Minister was accused of violating Covid guidelines. A Dec. 15, 2020 photo shows Johnson sitting between two colleagues who are allegedly holding a Christmas quiz. Despite the new restrictions over the holiday season, Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.
Why are Brits hostile to Johnson?
The incident involving the prime minister and his staff comes at a time when the British public is being asked to make significant sacrifices to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has now claimed more than 150,000 lives in the UK.
All parts of the UK were locked down for almost two months in May 2020, and despite signs that the virus was fading, Johnson reiterated throughout May that people should continue to observe social distancing rules. Legal restrictions at the time stated that you could not leave your home without a reasonable excuse, and Britons were still required to work from home. Despite the fine weather, many Londoners were dragged in their flats. New allegations against the Teflon-skinned leader of alleged breaches of Covid-19 protocols have caused his poll ratings to drop and drawn criticism across the political spectrum, including within his own party.
Ask the Prime Minister to resign
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was one of the first to admonish Johnson’s government at the May gathering, declaring,
“What do these people think?” Some senior politicians have called for the prime minister to resign.Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross says he has a “Tough talk” He met the prime minister on Wednesday, adding that he would show his lack of confidence in Johnson. Meanwhile, Labour leader Kirstarmer urged Johnson to resign during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.He claimed Johnson’s excuse, which he believed to be a work incident, was “It’s ridiculous and actually offends the British people.”Johnson himself admitted Wednesday that he understands the anger towards him. “I know millions of people across the country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months. I know the pain they’ve gone through – not being able to mourn their loved ones, not be able to live their lives or do what they love, “ Johnson told other lawmakers.
What does the government say?
Johnson has asked lawmakers and the public to wait for the findings of senior public servant Sugray, who is currently investigating the government for alleged breaches of the lockdown.
Johnson apologises in the House of Commons
On Wednesday, the prime minister shrugged off calls for his resignation, insisting he viewed the May 20 gathering as a work event. He did offer an apology, though, saying he “
must take responsibility” for events that occurred. Johnson added that if he could go back to that moment, he would send everyone back inside.