London, UK | Xinhua | Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday defiantly fended off calls for his resignation ahead of the expected release of the findings of an official inquiry into parties that allegedly took place in Whitehall and Downing Street in the past two years in breach of the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
During the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons (lower house of Parliament), Johnson ruled out his resignation as the opposition parties’ leaders urged him to do so.
Asked by Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, if he should resign for changing his story over the gatherings and misleading Parliament, Johnson said “No.”
“I don’t deny it, and for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way, but the reason why he (Starmer) wants me out of the way is because he knows this government can be trusted to deliver,” he said.
When Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), asked Johnson when he would “cop on” and “go,” the prime minister said “I have absolutely no intention of doing what he suggests.”
Revelations of a string of rules-busting parties at Whitehall and Downing Street have enraged the British public, who obediently followed the government-imposed social restrictions that barred them from meeting friends and families for many months in 2020 and 2021. Several grieving families were even unable to say goodbye to dying relatives or attend funerals.
Two weeks ago, Johnson apologized for attending a Downing Street garden party on May 20, 2020, during the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown. He said he believed it was a work event and stayed there for 25 minutes only.
British media company ITV reported on Monday that the prime minister had a birthday party on June 19, 2020, at Downing Street, which was attended by around 30 people despite the ban on social gatherings indoors.
It remains unclear when the much-anticipated report drafted by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with investigating the alleged parties at Downing Street, will be released. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday ahead of the PMQs that Downing Street had not yet received the findings of the Gray report but that it would be released very soon.
Truss told Sky News that parts of the report may be “problematic to publish” and may be “redacted” for “security” reasons.
However, she also stressed that whatever the result, Downing Street needs to mend its ways in the future.
There clearly needs to be a “change in culture,” Truss told the BBC. “We need to get the results of the report, we need to look at the results and fix the issues there are.”
On Tuesday, London Metropolitan Police announced the launch of an investigation into a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the past two years in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations, citing “deep public concern.”