UK PM fights for survival after lockdown party hangover

British opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his political future Friday as outrage mounted after his belated apology for attending a party during lockdown and as a fresh report emerged of other raucous gatherings at his office.

Revelations that Johnson and Downing Street staff breached restrictions at the height of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown have enraged the public, who were forced to abide by rules that prevented them from visiting sick and dying loved ones or attending funerals.

The image of Queen Elizabeth sitting alone in church at her late husband’s memorial service was one of the starkest images of Britain under lockdown.

While expressing “heartfelt apologies”, Johnson sparked ridicule this week by saying he had believed a May 2020 gathering in the Downing Street garden — at which more than 100 people gathered — was a work event.

Douglas Ross, the Conservatives leader in Scotland, has joined at least four Tory backbench MPs in calling for Johnson to quit after the prime minister admitted joining the party.

Cabinet member Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Ross as a “lightweight” Tory figure, sparking rebukes from other MPs and warnings that the upper-crust Englishman was bolstering the case for Scottish independence.

– ‘Partygate’ –

On Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer for the first time joined other opposition chiefs in demanding Johnson’s resignation.

One new poll by YouGov in The Times newspaper gave Labour a 10-point lead over the Tories, its biggest margin since 2013, and said six out of 10 voters believe Johnson should resign.

But for now, Johnson’s fate appears to lie in the hands of senior civil servant Sue Gray, whom he has commissioned to look into the May 2020 event and other Downing Street gatherings that year.

Another potential contender to replace Johnson, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, also took hours to issue any public backing, but later said she stood “100 percent” behind the prime minister.

“The prime minister abides by the principles of public office,” he told reporters, stressing that Johnson had promised to publish Gray’s report and then update parliament.

Originally published as UK PM fights for survival after lockdown party hangover

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