UK PM Boris Johnson faces heat ahead of 'partygate' report

World Thursday 27/January/2022 10:01 AM
By: DW
UK PM Boris Johnson faces heat ahead of 'partygate' report
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced heated opposition in Parliament on Wednesday, and was urged to step down as the backlash over the "partygate" scandal grows.

A much-anticipated report is also expected to be released on Wednesday that will determine whether the prime minister or members of his staff broke rules during coronavirus lockdowns.

It's thought the conclusions about potentially illegal parties at Johnson's Downing Street offices could determine the prime minister's political fate.

Opposition urges ministers to speak out

Johnson faced interrogation from opposition politicians in a weekly Prime Ministers' Questions (PMQs) session.

At the opening of the session, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer asked Johnson if he would resign if shown to have broken the ministerial code of ethics by lying to parliament.

"The police decided, on the material they have already got, that those involved knew or ought to have known what they were doing was an offense," said Starmer

"Does the prime minister not understand the damage he is doing to this country?"

Taking aim at Johnson's ministerial colleagues, Starmer said the prime minister was "unable to lead the country, incapable of doing the right thing, and every day his Cabinet fails to speak out, they become more complicit."

The Scottish National Party's leader in the House of Commons Ian Blackford said every moment that Johnson remained in office was "dragging out the agony of families" who abided by lockdown rules during the pandemic.

"We have a prime minister being investigated by the police for breaking his own laws — absolutely unprecedented," said Blackford.Speaking on Wednesday morning, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said that the prime minister had not yet received the Cabinet Office's internal report on the investigation.

The report has been described by sources who have seen it as "frank," and likely to make "very uncomfortable reading" for Johnson. It's been suggested that some in Downing Street have argued for only a summary of the report to be made public.

One of the parties — a birthday celebration for Johnson himself — allegedly took place during the first COVID-19 lockdown in June 2020. At that time, social gatherings indoors were banned.

Police investigation launched

The London Metropolitan Police force on Tuesday said it would investigate a series of events held in Downing Street, where Johnson also lives.

The criminal probe followed numerous allegations and complaints that the police force had previously declined investigating.

Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, revealed the decision had been taken partly as a result of information passed to police from a Cabinet Office inquiry being carried out by the UK Civil Service. The investigation had also been launched because of officers' own assessments, Dick said.

She said police had waited to start an investigation because it would "not normally be a proportionate use of officers time" to probe allegations that surfaced so long after they were said to have taken place.