Politics

Boris Johnson to resign? PM flooded with calls to leave post as Tory sleaze row explodes

Boris Johnson: Former Tory minister suggests 'change of PM'

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The Prime Minister is facing intense calls to step down from his role. It comes after reports that members of his staff attended a Christmas party last year while much of the country was in lockdown. The party has widely been suggested to have taken place on December 18, 2020, just days after London was moved into tier 3 — at the time, the toughest coronavirus restrictions.

At the time, he urged the public to severely limit the length and scale of gatherings over the Christmas period, and said: “A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas.”

It meant that the only permitted indoor social mixing outside your own household was with a support bubble.

Under the new restrictions he imposed, any party taking place would have been illegal.

It has since surfaced that then-Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, also held a Christmas party for up to two dozen staff on December 10, which included drinks and canapes — just as the virus was ravaging the country.

And, the Conservative Party has since admitted that a party was held in the basement of its Westminster headquarters during coronavirus restrictions on December 4, while London was under tier 2.

Now, with the myriad revelations — added to the Tory sleaze row that has exploded in Westminster in recent months — Mr Johnson is being urged to resign by a number of figures.

Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, last night took to Twitter to call for Mr Johnson to step down.

He wrote: “The Prime Minister is in it up to his neck.

“His actions have undermined public trust and distracted from key public health messaging at a critical time.

“Serious times call for serious leadership and it is clear that Boris Johnson isn’t up to the job.”

Mr Streeting is not the only member of the House of Commons to call on Mr Johnson to leave.

Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) Westminster leader, said Downing Street had “mocked” the country.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, he said: “Trust in leadership is a matter of life and death.

“Downing Street wilfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made, shattering the public’s trust.

“The Prime Minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people, he can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands.

“The Prime Minister has a duty, the only right and moral choice left to him, it is for his resignation.

“There is no dignity from a Prime Minister who simply doesn’t get it.

“People have sacrificed, at times to the point of breaking, while the British Government has laughed in their faces.

“This is a moment of moral reckoning. Is this the man to lead these islands when lives are at stake?”

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Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Shadow Mental Health Secretary, used her question to give a harrowing account of her work outside Parliament as a doctor for the NHS.

She said: “This country is angry, and understandably so. Last Christmas, while we were in lockdown, millions of people were unable to be with their families.

“Thousands of people waved through their care home windows at loved ones, wishing them a Merry Christmas from the side of the road.

“People died without that last touch from their daughters, their sons, their wives.

“Working in intensive care, I wept behind my mask as three children talking to their dying mother on an iPad begged her to wake up. Countless children are now growing up without parents, while parties were held at No 10.

“This is disgraceful, this is an insult to everyone who followed the rules, it is an insult to everyone who wasn’t allowed to say their final goodbye. This happened on the Prime Minister’s watch.

“My question is very simple: how does the Prime Minister sleep at night?”

The anger is not limited to the Opposition, however, as resentment is reportedly building among Tory ranks as well.

ITV’s Paul Brand quoted a Tory MP as saying: “I’m tired of it. He has to go. Clean sweep. It’s unsustainable.”

On Tuesday night, a video emerged of senior Conservative Party aides, including Mr Johnson’s hand-picked assistant, Allegra Stratton, joking about a Christmas party that was held in No 10.

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Less than 20 hours after the video was leaked by ITV News, Ms Stratton resigned.

In a tear-laden statement made on the doorstep of her house, she skirted around the question of whether or not a Christmas party did, in fact, take place.

Rather, she apologised to the country for “making light of the rules”.

Sam Coates, deputy political editor at Sky News, questioned whether her resignation could “make things worse for Boris Johnson”.

It is not just politicians who have expressed their exasperation with Mr Johnson and the Government.

On Wednesday, the Guardian newspaper published accounts from a list of their readers who expressed “absolute disgust” over his actions.

Mike, a retired 71-year-old from Kirby, said: “It’s all an absolute disgrace with the Government and I just despair, but I would observe the rules if a lockdown was called.

“You’ve got to try to keep the faith.

“It pains me to say, but the selfish nature of what we have become as a nation, encouraged and nurtured by this Tory Government over the last 10 years, breaks my heart.”

Mike’s brother-in-law died around the time of the party, he said.

He went into hospital, for something unrelated to COVID-19, tested negative on entering, but after returning home, tested positive and died a few days later.

Liam, a 34-year-old from Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “I have severe asthma and am clinically extremely vulnerable and have always been fastidious about the rules.

“Now I also have a five-month-old baby.

“After 18 months of a new scandal every week, culminating in them literally laughing at us, I’m done.

“I will keep my distance from people I don’t know, I will wash my hands, I will even wear a mask.

“But you try to stop me from seeing family at Christmas – my daughter’s first Christmas, my nephew’s first Christmas, the first Christmas since my grandfather’s Parkinson’s diagnosis? Not a chance.”

Others voiced their resistance to the idea of another lockdown, given what the implications of the party mean.

Another, Daniel, 35, from York, detailed how his father had a stroke and was admitted to hospital over Christmas including Christmas Day, but that he was unable to receive visitors because of restrictions.

He wrote: “That’s where he spent his Christmas. He almost died and we weren’t allowed to see him at all throughout that period.

“He had trouble speaking and it was very hard to communicate with him on the phone. One day he called us and was crying on the phone.

“I feel absolute disgust when I think about the fact that No 10 had a Christmas party while we went through this. It sickens me.

“My dismay at that man being the leader of the country I live in increases by the day.

“The obvious answer is that the Tories were laughing at us all. I wouldn’t be willing to follow another lockdown in regards to seeing loved ones.”

There were several more emotional accounts from members of the public who followed the rules at the time.

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