Does Partygate Mean the End for Boris Johnson? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defied calls for him to resign as leader of the Conservative Party after reports revealed that he and Downing Street staffers enjoyed several wine-fuelled garden parties during the height of COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
It comes as London’s Metropolitan Police launch an investigation into the social gatherings to determine whether or not the Prime Minister and his staff broke COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Partygate: More Than Just One Party
When photographs emerged in December of Prime Minister Johnson attending what was described as a “work meeting” in “normal post-work hours” in May of 2020 it caused an immediate media storm.
The Guardian newspaper published photographs showing the prime minister with his wife, Carrie Johnson, and various colleagues sitting at a table drinking wine in the garden of 10 Downing Street.
PM’s spokesman says this pic shows a “work meeting” in “normal post-work hours” in May 2020. He says Carrie Johnson was there because it’s “her garden” but he “won’t get into” her level of security clearance. pic.twitter.com/ATO9SJX3SS
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) December 20, 2021
Emails from Johnson’s senior aide Martin Reynolds were also revealed in which he invited members of staff to “make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No10 garden this evening.” According to ITV News, which first obtained the email, 40 members of staff attended the gathering that evening.
Another social event is reported to have taken place in the Cabinet Office on December 17. According to the Daily Mirror, another party was then held at Downing Street on December 18.
Downing Street’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton even joked about the party in a press conference, only to issue a tearful public apology and resign soon after.
EXCLUSIVE: Video obtained by ITV News shows Downing Street staff joking about a Christmas party on 18th December last year.
No 10 has spent the past week denying any rules were broken. This new evidence calls that into question. pic.twitter.com/nKYK0tG0dQ
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) December 7, 2021
The Telegraph reported that on the night before the funeral of Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, two other alcohol-fuelled events reportedly took place. Prime Minister Johnson is not believed to have been present, but reports claimed that alcohol was smuggled into Downing Street in a suitcase to avoid suspicion.
Partygate: What Now?
Public anger has grown over Johnson’s insistence that the events were work-related and were not illegal gatherings.
The Daily Telegraph reports that 58 parliamentary members of the Conservative Party have openly criticized the Prime Minister so far – which is four more than the number of Members of Parliament required to trigger a leadership challenge within the party. If 54 Conservative Party MPs write letters of no-confidence and submit them to the chairman of the 1922 Committee – a governing body of the Conservative Party – a leadership challenge is triggered.
An election within the Conservative Party will be held and the winner will become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister faced an angry audience during Prime Minister’s Questions. He told fellow members of parliament that he was not warned the “bring your own booze” policy breached lockdown rules, and was accused of “defending the indefensible” by opposition leader Sir Kier Starmer.
David Davis MP, the former Brexit Secretary during the transitional period of Britain’s exit from the European Union, told the Prime Minister to resign.
“You have sat there too long for the good you have done. I the name of God, go,” Davis said.
Boris Johnson has so far refused to resign, and if he can navigate the coming weeks and months without a vote of no confidence from his party, he will likely lead the party into the 2024 General Election.
Johnson’s future likely depends on the result of the Metropolitan Police investigation.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.