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UK opposition leader on partygate: Prime minister broke law and lied about it

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)
Handout photograph released by the UK parliament shows Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in the House of Commons in London on November 15, 2021. (Via AFP)

Leader of Britain's opposition Labour party has kept up his attacks on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the latter's reported participation in several parties at Downing Street during the coronavirus' pandemic lockdown, when Britons had been ordered to observe social distancing.

After weeks of denials and stonewalling concerning the scandal that has attracted notoriety as "partygate," Johnson apologized to the parliament this week for attending, what he called, only one party.

"I think he (Johnson) broke the law. I think he's as good as admitted that he broke the law," opposition leader, Keir Starmer, told the BBC, citing Johnson's apology. "I think he then lied about what had happened."

Two other parties were held in April 2021 as Queen Elizabeth II was preparing to bury Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years.

But those were not isolated events, according to Saturday's Daily Mirror, which published a photograph of a fridge being delivered to a Downing Street back door in December 2020 for Friday parties.

Most recently, Johnson's wife Carrie was photographed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph newspaper embracing a friend at a September 2020 party in complete disregard for the social distancing rules.

"The prime minister has degraded the office of prime minister and he has lost full authority not only in his own party, but in the country," Starmer added.

The controversy has boosted the Labour's standing across opinion polls.

Starmer, his supporters, and even MPs from within Johnson's own Conservative Party, are now clinging onto the scandal to bring about the premier's resignation.

Government minister Oliver Dowden, the Conservatives' co-chairman, conceded that the Downing Street parties were "completely unacceptable."

Conservative MPs, many of whom were spending the weekend back in their home constituencies, say they are being deluged with messages from voters outraged at the accounts of rule-breaking in Downing Street.

Conservative Member of Parliament Tim Loughton joined the handful of lawmakers in Johnson's party publicly calling for him
to quit.

"I have regretfully come to the conclusion that Boris Johnson’s position is now untenable, that his resignation is the only way to bring this whole unfortunate episode to an end," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday night.

At least six lawmakers in Johnson's Conservative party have now called publicly for him to quit, while others say they are awaiting the findings of an internal inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Earlier on Sunday, lawmakers of the ruling Conservative Party were reportedly prepared to oust Johnson if he tried to dodge responsibility for the widely-criticized social gatherings at Downing Street during COVID-19 lockdowns.

According to The Observer, Tory MPs would be ready in sufficient numbers to force Johnson out of Downing Street “within weeks” if he denies responsibility for rule-breaking parties at No 10 during the stringent pandemic-induced curbs.

A new poll released on Sunday showed that the Labour Party has opened up its biggest lead against the Tories since 2013 amid criticism leveled at Johnson over social gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The poll conducted by Opinium gave Labour 41% of the vote share in comparison with 31% for the Conservatives. The online poll of 2,005 people was conducted between Jan. 12 and Jan. 14.

According to another opinion poll released on Friday, the scandals have helped the Labour Party to pull into a 10 point lead over the Conservatives.

Pollster Savanta ComRes said its survey of 2,151 adults put Labour up 5 points to 42% of the vote whereas the Conservatives fell one point to 32%.

Johnson secured a landslide election victory in 2019, but according to the poll, 70% of respondents now want him to quit his job.

It also showed voters across the political spectrum were angry with the revelations, with just 66% of those who supported the Conservatives in the 2019 election giving their support to the party now.


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