The British government has rejected calls for Boris Johnson to resign over allegations that he attended a "bring your own booze" party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown in May 2020. Mr Johnson has not denied that he and his wife Carrie attended the party, to which his permanent private secretary Martin Reynolds invited up to 100 people by email.
Two opinion polls on Tuesday showed majorities wanting Mr Johnson to step down but paymaster general Michael Ellis told MPs that was out of the question.
"The prime minister is going nowhere," he said in response to an urgent question" from Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner.
“The prime minister retains the confidence of the people of this country and he did so two years ago with the biggest majority in decades.
The party on May 20th, 2020 was one of eight gatherings alleged to have taken place in Downing Street and other government buildings during lockdown that are under investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray. The Metropolitan Police said it was in contact with the cabinet office over reports of gatherings that may have breached lockdown rules.
Under the rules in force at the time, people were only allowed to take exercise, play sport or have a picnic outdoors with members of their household or one other person. Police enforced the social distancing rules with a £100 fine for a first offence rising to £3,200 for people who serially breached the restrictions.
“There is no need for an investigation into the simple central question today: did the prime minister attend the event in the Downing Street garden on the 20th of May 2020? It will not wash to blame this on a few junior civil servants; the prime minister sets the tone,” Ms Rayner said.
“If the prime minister was there, surely he knew. The invitation was sent to 100 staff, many of them his own most personal senior appointees. This was organised in advance, so did the prime minister know about the event beforehand, and did he give his permission for it to go ahead? If so, did he believe this event was in keeping with the restrictions and guidelines at the time, and was the chief medical officer consulted before it went ahead?”
A snap poll by Savanta ComRes found that two out of three voters thought Mr Johnson should resign and a YouGov poll had 56 per cent saying he should go. Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the prime minister must step down if he broke lockdown rules.
“This is the guidance that stopped people going to family members’ funerals. It stopped people grieving together. It meant that doctors and nurses were working flat out to get this virus under control and people across the country were following some of the strictest guidance we’ve ever seen,” he told Sky News.
“And if the prime minister and others within No 10 breached that guidance, while earlier that afternoon a cabinet minister had told people what they were expected to do, yet out the back in No 10 people were enjoying the sunshine in the garden – I think that is utterly despicable.”