Britain’s Boris Johnson prepares for ‘partygate’ investigation report

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LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is bracing for the findings of an inquiry into allegations of parties breaking the lockdown, a document that could help him end weeks of scandal and discontent, or bring an abrupt end to its mandate.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray could submit her report to the government as early as Wednesday. Johnson’s office has promised to publish its findings and the prime minister will address parliament soon after.

Gray’s office would not comment on the timing, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the Conservative government had not yet received the report Wednesday morning.

“I think we won’t have much longer to wait,” she told the BBC.

Truss said she could not guarantee the government would release the full report, saying there may be “security issues that mean some parts are problematic to release. But we will absolutely release the findings of the report.”

Allegations that the Prime Minister and his staff flouted restrictions imposed on the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus have sparked public anger, led some Tory lawmakers to call for Johnson’s resignation and sparked intense infighting within the ruling party.

Wednesday’s headlines provided more bad news for Johnson, whose popularity in opinion polls has plunged amid the scandal. The Guardian’s front-page headline spoke of ‘PM peril’, while the left-leaning Daily Mirror bluntly said: ‘The number is on the rise, PM’. The centre-right Daily Mail disagreed, saying Britain: ‘A nation that has lost all sense of proportion’.

Johnson urged critics to wait for Gray’s findings, but his “wait and see” defense faltered on Tuesday when police said they opened a criminal investigation into some of the rallies.

London’s Metropolitan Police said ‘a number of events’ at Johnson’s Downing Street office and other government buildings met the force’s criteria to investigate the ‘most serious and flagrant’ breaches. coronavirus rules.

Gray is investigating allegations that government staff hosted late night parties, booze parties and ‘wine hour Fridays’ as Britain was under coronavirus restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

The ‘partygate’ allegations have infuriated many in Britain, who have been banned from meeting friends and family for months in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people have been fined by police for breaking the rules.

Johnson and his allies have tried, without much success, to calm a scandal that is consuming government energies that could be better spent dealing with the international crisis over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine and a coronavirus pandemic far away. to be finished.

Johnson apologized for attending an event, a ‘bring your own booze’ rally in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020, but said he had considered the party a compliant work gathering to the rules.

His office and supporters have also championed a surprise birthday party in June 2020 for the Prime Minister in Downing Street.

Loyal lawmaker Conor Burns said Johnson was unaware of the rally in advance.

“It wasn’t a premeditated, organized party…He was kind of ambushed with a cake,” Burns told Channel 4 News.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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