British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will not resign against the backdrop of a scandal involving lockdown-breaking parties at his Downing Street office and residence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Answering questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday, a new war of words erupted between the premier and the opposition leader over the parties held at Downing Street and other government offices in a breach of Covid lockdowns.
Johnson was grilled and accused by Labour leader Keir Starmer of changing his story over the gatherings and misleading the parliament.
Asked if he would step down, Johnson, who has survived scandals throughout his career, replied, “No.” “I don’t deny it, and for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way, but the reason why he (Starmer) wants me out of the way is because he knows this government can be trusted to deliver,” the premier told lawmakers. “We’ve taken the tough decisions, we’ve got the big calls right and we’re and in particular I am getting on with the job.”
Johnson, however, agreed that ministers who knowingly misled the parliament should quit.
The prime minister is accused of lying to the parliament about attending parties thrown by his aides at the height of the lockdown. The latest revelation about such gatherings is about Johnson’s birthday party that was attended by dozens of people in June 2020. It was held during Britain’s first lockdown.
On Tuesday, London's Metropolitan Police launched a criminal probe into the lockdown parties. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick acknowledged deep public concern about allegations of the lockdown parties in breach of the government's own Covid guidelines. The London police had previously faced sharp criticism for rejecting calls to look into the claims.
The Labour and other opposition parties are upping pressure on Johnson to quit over the Downing Street scandal. Others are stepping up pressure on colleagues to submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister. Some of his 359 Conservative Party lawmakers have so far called for him to resign.
Johnson's office, however, described the latest party as a brief gathering by staff to wish him a happy birthday. But reports said he and his staff were flouting the rules they imposed on the British public.