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With Partygate, Boris Johnson lands in a crisis of his own initiative

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The problem with the latest scandal raging Boris Johnson is that it revolves around parties. If it was centered on something grayer, more complex, more esoterically political, it might not have unleashed such fury. But as James Forsyth written in The viewer, Partygate is a problem that everyone can relate to. The collective understanding of Brits is this: During the lockdown, Boris Johnson’s political party has seen real parties on several occasions. There have been allegations of quizzes, canapes, wine and cheese parties. The day before Prince Philips’ funeral (where the Queen mourned her 73-year-old husband alone), Downing Street would have hosted two sets of starter drinks. Shelley Williams Walker, Johnsons chief operating officer, has been dubbed DJ SWW for her playlist management. Another member of staff took a suitcase to a supermarket on the Strand and packed it with wine. Downing Street has now issued an apology to the Queen, and the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was deeply regrettable that it came at a time of national mourning.

The party that caused the most controversy was a BYOB rally in May 2020 in the Downing Street garden, as it was attended by Johnson himself. Built in 1736 and largely isolated from public view, the Downing Streets garden has recently risen to prominence for another coronavirus controversy. It’s there that Dominique Cummings (Johnson’s former confidant; now his closest enemy) explained that he broke the lockdown to travel to a town called Barnard Castle (the trip, he said, was to test his eyesight). Five days before that notorious presser, Martin Reynolds, senior private secretary at Johnsons, emailed around 100 staff: After an incredibly busy time, we thought it would be nice to make the most of the nice weather and have a social distancing drink in garden number 10 tonight. The party started at 6 p.m. and about 40 guests arrived, many armed with bottles. According to The Times of London, a colleague joked that hopefully there was no drone surveillance.

Inevitably, it was secret surveillance that triggered Partygate in the first place. A drip of leaks began before Christmas when ITV obtained footage from Johnsons spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, repeating a press conference with colleagues. Asked about rumors of a Christmas party in Downing Street, Stratton responded, jokingly, This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced. Stratton resigned and some questioned whether Hangar had been a scapegoat when reports of other events emerged. the Daily mail simulated a Christmas calendar to juxtapose those festivities with the simultaneous tightening of lockdown restrictions. December 10: The Ministry of Education organizes a Christmas party. December 16: Indoor household mixtures are prohibited. December 18: Downing Street holds an alleged party with Secret-Santa Claus present. December 19: Christmas is effectively cancelled. When the senior official Case Simon was assigned to investigate the multitude of illicit parties, he had to recuse himself: an event would have taken place in his own office.

Any hopes that the heat would cool over Christmas proved unfounded when news of the BYOB party started circulating. On Wednesday, after dodging questions about his supposed attendance, Johnson issued a delicately worded apology in parliament. His basic premise was that he didn’t realize the event was a party, he thought it was a work event, and he wanted to take the opportunity to thank the staff for their efforts during the period. grueling: I should have found another way to thank them, and I should have recognized that even if it had been technically possible to say that he fell within the guideline, there would be millions and millions of people who just wouldn’t see it that way. At the time of the holiday (May 2020), Britain was in the throes of a joyless lockdown. Weddings, large funerals, socializing and celebrating in large groups were prohibited. Parties were not allowed.

After Wednesday’s speech, Johnson went to the Commons Tea Room to try to stem signs of rebellion within his party. According to The Times of London, her contrition gave way to defiance. Sometimes we take credit for things we don’t deserve and this time we take the beating for something we don’t deserve, he reportedly told his colleagues. Some legislators do not share this perspective. I have no words that can adequately express how angry I am at the don’t do what I do, do what I say attitude that seems to have prevailed in Downing Street, said the deputy Caroline Nokes. His colleague Johnny Mercier argued that the humiliating debacle does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who are at least trying to lead by example. Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish arm of the Conservatives (a country where Johnson is not popular) spat. It was the Prime Minister, it was his government that put these rules in place, and he must be held accountable for his actions, he said, declaring that he would write a letter of defiance calling for Johnson’s resignation.

This leads to a question that occupies many British journalists: what happens next? One possibility put forward is that 53 other Tory MPs are also writing letters to Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, triggering a vote of no confidence. Realistically, the 54-letter threshold is unlikely to be met. Johnson’s credibility may be in question but, still in his first term, he led the Conservatives to a landslide victory in the last election.

Another conceivable threat is Johnson’s own cabinet, which understandably is crammed with people who secretly envision themselves in the top job. Some of the most discussed threats are Minister of Foreign Affairs Liz Truss and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Sunak’s absence from the benches during Johnson’s apology was widely noted (he was on a well-timed trip to North Devon). By Wednesday night, Sunak had clearly decided not to resign in protest. But he didn’t give the prime minister his full backing either, posting the lukewarm tweet: The prime minister was right to apologize and I back his plea for patience while Sue Gray conducts its investigation.

Indeed, everyone seems to be biding their time until the publication of an upcoming pandemic party survey. Produced by Sue Gray, a civil servant with a fearsome impeccable reputation, the report is unlikely to contain explosive findings that will dislodge Johnson (who has taken the lead with his parliamentary apology). Instead, it may shine a light on Downing Street’s blurred line between working and drinking, and perhaps question Johnson’s judgment for going to the BYOB party.

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