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UK's PM Johnson faces fresh pressure over lockdown party

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a press conference at 10 Downing Street on Dec. 8, 2021 in London.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been embroiled in another scandal over his administration’s breaches of health protocols at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown when all in-person socializing was outlawed.

Johnson came under fresh scrutiny following reports that more than 100 members of his staff were invited to a party in the garden of his official residence in May 2020.

British tabloids covered the story on their front pages on Tuesday. “Invite To Do What You Like,” read The Mirror’s headline, while The Daily Mail ran “Boris Rocked By New Party Revelations.”

The May 20 event, which Johnson and his wife Carrie attended, was first reported late on Monday by British broadcaster ITV.

A leaked email indicated that an invitation to the party had been sent out by Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds via email to more than 100 Downing Street officials.

Johnson’s premiership has been badly tarnished by a slew of controversies in recent months. The news marks the latest of a string of gatherings held by government officials over the past two years that broke their own pandemic rules.

A civil servant is already investigating allegations of at least five parties held in government departments during lockdown restrictions.

London police has said they are also making inquiries about potential breaches of the lockdown laws in relation to the May gathering.

The parties were organized at a time when there were strict controls on social mixing.

The potentially highly damaging revelations have dismayed voters and opposition leaders, who were told by the government to carefully stick to social distancing measures.

Reacting to the revelation, the main opposition Labour Party has accused the premier of having “no regard for the rules he puts in place for the rest of us,” while the Scottish National Party called the email sent by Reynolds “utterly outrageous.”

Labor’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, warned that Johnson “can run but he can’t hide,” as the prime minister declined to answer an urgent question over the gathering. Johnson has previously denied knowledge that any rules were broken in Downing Street during the pandemic.

But the latest accusations appear to directly contradict those claims.

Meanwhile, the UK’s official death toll from the pandemic last week soared above the 150,000 mark to become the second-highest in Europe.


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