Johnson must tackle culture that led to lockdown parties, says UK’s Conservative President


The chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party has rejected calls for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step down, but said he must tackle the culture within his government that has led to multiple gatherings of staff at his residence during coronavirus closures.

Johnson has apologized for attending a gathering in the garden of his Downing Street residence in May 2020 where staff were asked to bring their own alcohol at a time when strict rules barred the public from almost any socializing.

Amid a public backlash to the perception that the government has failed to follow its own rules during the pandemic, an internal inquiry is looking into that party and several others – including parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

“We have to get the facts out and then the Prime Minister has to respond effectively and tackle the culture of Downing Street,” Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Sunday.

The scandal generated calls for Johnson’s resignation – including from within his own party – and saw the Tories fall far behind the opposition Labor Party in opinion polls.

Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson of breaking the law and lying to parliament when first questioned about party reports. He said the public can no longer take the prime minister seriously when it comes to the pandemic response.

“I think he broke the law. I think he’s as good as he admitted he broke the law,” Starmer told the BBC, citing Johnson’s apology in parliament for attending. to such an event. “I think he then lied about what happened.”

Investigation

Tory MP Tim Loughton joined the handful of lawmakers from Johnson’s party publicly calling on him to step down.

“I have come to the conclusion with regret that Boris Johnson’s position is now untenable, that his resignation is the only way to end this whole unfortunate episode,” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening.

The inquiry into the case led by senior civil servant Sue Gray would produce a factual account of events against a summary of the rules at the time, but would not advise on disciplinary action, Dowden told the BBC . His report would be released in full, he later told Times Radio.

Facing the most serious threat to his leadership since taking office in 2019, the Sunday Times reported that Johnson would try to draw a line under the issue with a mass staff cut and a slew of populist policies.

The Sunday Express reported that Johnson would remove all existing coronavirus restrictions in an upcoming review, including mandatory face masks and an instruction to work from home where possible. The report cites a government source.

Asked about the report, Dowden said: “I’m very upbeat and optimistic, but clearly we’ll wait for the data at decision time before making that final decision.”

New cases of COVID-19 began to fall after a sharp spike caused by the highly transmissible but milder omicron variant. Britain reported nearly 82,000 new cases on Saturday, less than half the peak seen in early January.

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