Published: 13th January 2022
What the FAQ: Why is the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing calls to resign from various quarters?
He tried to shield himself by claiming that he thought the invitation to the party was a work event and not an informal gathering
It was only yesterday that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised during the Prime Minister's Question session for attending a booze party in the month of May 2020, when COVID was at an alarming height and millions of his citizens were put under an intense lockdown. Like the rest of the world, the United Kingdom is again dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. Amidst this, the Conservative Party leader faces a strong blow to his credibility as calls for his resignation grow.
What is Prime Minister's Question?
It is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom, currently held as a single session every Wednesday at noon, when the House of Commons is sitting, during which the Prime Minister answers oral questions from Members of Parliament.
How did his involvement in the party come to light?
Some of the biggest turning points in any country's political landscape have happened after leaked documents or emails have surfaced. Two days before his official statement before the House, an email was leaked on January 10 that it was an invitation to a party.
What did the email say?
One of his top officials had invited dozens of employees to a “bring your own booze” party during the UK's first lockdown. The prime minister is believed to have attended the party on May 20, 2020, along with Carrie Johnson, then his fiancee, after it was advertised by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds. There were a little over 100 invites sent at a time when such large social gatherings were banned. About 30 to 40 are said to have attended, The Guardian reported, with food and wine set out on tables.
Did he defend his actions?
Johnson tried to shield himself by claiming that he thought the invitation to the party was a work event and not an informal gathering. Apart from the Labour Party, Johnson has also come under criticism from the Scottish Conservative Party — leaders from both these parties were far from accepting his defence and stood firm on the calls to resign. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said, “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 resign?”
What exactly did he say in his apology?
The British Prime Minister's statement before the MPs was carefully worded, keeping in mind the sentiments of the British people. He started by acknowledging that his actions have angered his citizens who have faced grave distress in two-odd years of COVID. “I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months," this was Johnson's opening. His defence comes in the middle of his apology, where he claims he believed it was a work event: “No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. When I went into that garden just after six on 20 May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event."
An inquiry in all such alleged lockdown breaches within government quarters, including at the party Johnson attended at Downing Street, is being conducted by senior UK civil servant Sue Gray. Johnson's apology ended with: “All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established. I will of course come back to this house and make a statement.” Here is the full text of his speech.