British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign over a BYOB party that violated COVID rules.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under investigation and facing calls to resign over a May 2020 “bring your own booze” party that violated Britain’s draconian COVID rules. Johnson attended a party at 10 Downing Street, the PM’s residence/office, during the height of the UK’s first national lockdown.
- In May 2020, Johnson prohibited Britons from meeting more than one person outside of their households. Gatherings of more than six people were prohibited, and rules violations were punished with heavy fines.
- These revelations came after illicit Christmas parties were revealed last December that forced the resignation of the Conservative PM’s spokeswoman. After the May 2020 party was revealed, more leaks revealed two additional parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – which the Queen had to attend alone, per lockdown rules.
- The drip-drip continues, with revelations that the PM’s office hosted “wine time Fridays” and held a party for the woman who wrote the lockdown rules banning parties.
- Sue Gray, a leading civil servant, is investigating the “partygate” scandals. If she finds he misled Parliament Johnson will likely be forced to resign.
- Johnson’s Cabinet is supporting him until the investigation has concluded.
- Calls for Johnson’s resignation and criminal investigations aren’t just coming from the Opposition. The Conservative Leaders of the Scottish Parliament and the London Assembly, along with several prominent “backbench” MPs (Members of Parliament not currently serving in Government) demanded Johnson go.
- If 54 Conservative Party MPs (15 percent) send letters to the 1922 Committee (a group of backbench MPs that represent the Conservative rank-and-file), then Johnson will face a vote of no confidence.
- If he loses, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (the runner-up to Johnson in 2019) are thought to be his leading potential replacements.
- The Guardian argues that Johnson’s survival depends upon the public – a public he “betrayed.”
- The New York Times offered a stateside view of the simultaneous crises afflicting Johnson and the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II stripped her son Prince Andrew, Duke of York of his titles and military ranks. A New York judge allowed a Jeffrey Epstein-related sex abuse lawsuit against the Prince to go forward Thursday.
- The Washington Post wrote that while Johnson may be a “dead man walking,” selecting his successor brings electoral danger to the Tories. All potential successors – Sunak, Truss, or Hunt – carry risks for the Tories. They may not have the electoral star power Johnson demonstrated in his 2019 landslide win.
- The Telegraph outlined six potential outcomes of the “Partygate” scandal, ranging from Johnson’s resignation to a split between the UK and Scottish Tories, to Johnson surviving and bouncing back stronger.
- The Daily Mail argues that Johnson’s “booze-up” is proof that he knew his severe lockdown was “nonsense” and that the folks in charge didn’t believe the rules applied to them.
- The Sun argues that only by ditching vaccine passports and ending the booze culture in 10 Downing Street can Johnson hope to salvage his premiership.
Voters’ loathing of hypocritical politicians is a phenomenon that knows no borders. In the US, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA)’s French Laundry jaunt earned him a recall election. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) faced waves of bad press after her husband tried to use her job to put his boat in the water against her regulations. Then-PA Health Secretary, now-US Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine (D-PA) was roundly criticized for taking her mom out of her nursing home immediately before issuing an order requiring COVID-positive residents be sent to nursing homes. This order, like ex-Gov. Cuomo’s in New York, contributed to the deaths of hundreds of seniors.
Johnson’s draconian lockdowns were far harsher than any lockdown policy imposed in the United States. Massive curtailments of personal freedoms don’t typically lead to much patience for hypocrisy. Under Johnson’s lockdown Britons with COVID died alone. It takes a certain kind of person to hold multiple staff parties while you’ve banned them for others.
Boris Johnson is a slippery politician who has survived scandal and setbacks before. However, the Conservative Party has a long history of ruthlessly dumping leaders the second they become an electoral liability. Strange as it may seem to Americans, a BYOB party may finally drown Boris Johnson.
© Dominic Moore, 2022