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UK’s Johnson refuses to resign after 'partygate' report raps ‘failures of leadership’

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)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he delivers a speech during the annual Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, Britain, on October 6, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned down calls for his resignation even after publication of a report on rule-breaking lockdown parties that blasted “failures of leadership and judgment” at 10 Downing Street.

The premier was forced into a humiliating apology in the House of Commons on Tuesday, after Civil Servant Sue Gray published a part of the findings of her investigation into a series of secret parties held by Johnson’s staff at his office during the coronavirus-related lockdown.

The lawmakers responded with outrage and decried his apology, but there was no immediate rush of no-confidence letters at the 1992 Committee, which would trigger a vote on Johnson’s future as Tory leader if they pass the threshold of 54.

The heavily abridged probe report revealed that the Metropolitan Police was conducting a criminal investigation into 12 separate events, of which, at least three are believed to have been attended by Johnson.

It said some of the gatherings represented “a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

“There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” the 12 page report noted.

Meanwhile, police said they had received more than 300 photos and 500 pages of information, but Gray said it was impossible for her to produce a “meaningful” report.

According to a Downing Street statement, a “full report” is due to be published soon.

Gray’s report gave a scathing assessment of the culture inside government departments that saw alcohol-fuelled gatherings of staff at a time when ordinary people faced fines for meetings or mourned for their loved ones amid the spread of COVID-19.

The opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, branded the PM as a “man without shame” after Johnson brushed off calls for his resignation and promised to “fix” the problem with a shake-up of No. 10 staff.

Starmer called on Johnson to step down, calling him “unfit for office”, and “totally unworthy of his responsibilities”.

He said Tory MPs had a “duty” to remove Johnson from No. 10, citing Margaret Thatcher’s statement that ministers cannot “bob and weave and duck” around the laws they make.

“They can go on degrading themselves, eroding trust in politics and insulting the sacrifice of the British public,” Starmer said. “They can heap their reputations, the reputation of their party, and the reputation of this country, on the bonfire that is his leadership.”

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague said the PM “should be very worried” after his humiliating apology.

“If I were him, I would be very worried about the number of his own MPs who asked unhelpful questions at the end of his statement,” Hague said, “as Theresa May’s devastating question to him in the Commons illustrated,” he added.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May asked Johnson after his apology whether he did not “read the rules”, understand them or “didn’t think the rules applied to No. 10”.

Citing “deep disappointment” with Johnson’s handling of the scandal, Tory MP Angela Richardson resigned from her position as the parliamentary private secretary to cabinet minister Michael Gove.

A snap poll by Opinium Research Company suggested that 64 percent of participants believe that Tory MPs should remove Johnson through a confidence vote, 83 percent believe he broke lockdown rules made in his government and 75 percent think he is a liar.

After Johnson targeted the staff over the scandal, one of the officials said that they were preparing for a week of “shuffle and slaughter”.

The Independent newspaper quoted three sources as saying that the report’s trimmed state had made it easier for Johnson to blame staff and officials, instead of stepping down.

Boris Johnson has been impudent enough to reject all the calls for his resignation over the scandal in the previous weeks.  

He has given a flurry of excuses and explanations about the parties, at different points, while sometimes rejecting that the rules were broken.

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