Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Britain’s Boris Johnson faces outrage over alleged garden party during the COVID-19 lockdown. CBC News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a wave of public and political outrage on Tuesday over allegations that he and his staff flouted coronavirus lockdown rules by holding a garden party in 2020, while allowing Britons to hold a ceremony outside their homes. Was barred from meeting with more than one person. ,

Opposition politicians called for a police investigation after broadcaster ITV published a leaked email invitation for “socially-distancing drinks” in the garden of the prime minister’s Downing Street office and residence. An email from Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s private secretary, was sent to dozens of people and urged attendees to “bring their own wine”.

The event was scheduled for May 20, 2020 – the same day the government held a televised news conference to remind people that group gatherings were banned indoors and out. The Metropolitan Police Force of London also published a reminder that day.

The police force said on Tuesday it was “in touch” with the government over the party’s claims, which follow allegations of several other rule-breaking gatherings in Downing Street during the pandemic. A senior civil servant who was investigating those allegations will also investigate the latest allegations.

Johnson insisted he had not personally broken any rules, but British media reported on Tuesday that the prime minister and his wife, Carrie Johnson, attended the garden meeting.

not the first time

But outrage is growing because it is not the first time Johnson’s Conservative government has been accused of flouting pandemic rules that have imposed the most severe restrictions on the personal liberties of Britons since World War II.

During the first lockdown, which began in March 2020 and lasted more than two months, gatherings were banned with few exceptions. Millions were cut off from friends and family, and even barred from visiting relatives who died in hospitals.

While Johnson has faced criticism so far, his problems continue to grow. Discontent over the continuation of pandemic restrictions is eroding support for him in his own party, which some conservatives see as harsh. He is also facing uneasiness about his decision after several financial and moral misconduct allegations.

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Britain is not scheduled to hold a national election until 2024, so Johnson will not face an impending voter decision. His party is another matter. The Conservatives have a history of ousting leaders if they become a liability – and a recent surprise defeat in a by-election for a district the party has held for more than a century has increased their panic. .

According to official figures, on the day of the garden party in May 2020, 268 people died of coronavirus in Britain, bringing the total death toll to more than 36,000. The total now exceeds 150,000, the highest in Europe after Russia.

‘Contempt for common people’

Lindsey Jackson, whose mother died of COVID-19 that month, said the government showed “contempt for the common people and the hardships we were all facing.”

Jackson, a member of the group COVID-19, said, “When she died I couldn’t be with her, I couldn’t hold her hand… I couldn’t even hug my brother after the funeral. ” Bereaved family for justice. She told Sky News that Johnson was “under contempt”.

Britain's Boris Johnson faces outrage over alleged garden party during the COVID-19 lockdown. CBC News
A quiet Waterloo station in London is pictured on May 13, 2020, as the country continues under lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / The Associated Press)

The latest claims will be investigated by senior civil servant Sue Grey, who was appointed by the government to look into earlier allegations that staff at Johnson’s office violated Christmas parties in 2020.

The opposition Labor Party demanded that Johnson answer questions about the allegations in parliament – but the government instead sent a junior minister, Michael Ellis, to confront lawmakers. Ellis apologized “for the outrage caused by these allegations” but said he could not comment further as an investigation was underway.

Labor deputy leader Angela Renner said Johnson’s “absence says a lot.”

“He can run but he can’t hide,” she said.

Health Minister Edward Arger said he understood why people would be “upset and angry”, but said he would not “pre-judge” the outcome of Grey’s investigation.

concern over leadership

But labor lawmaker Ed Miliband said the allegations were “incredibly harmful.”

“How can he lead the country through these difficult times, getting people to follow public health advice, if he has violated the rules?” Miliband said on BBC radio.

What was not worrying for Johnson was that only opposition leaders were expressing anger. The latest claims fueled growing concern within the governing Conservatives about the prime minister’s leadership.

The right-of-centre party chose Johnson as leader in 2019 for his spirited manner and popular touch, a choice that appeared to be leading the Tories, as the party is known, in December 2019 to a major for electoral victory.

But the pandemic has shaken his authority. He has faced criticism for not reacting quickly to the shutdown of the country, for frequent policy U-turns and, most recently, for allegations he and his staff did not follow their own rules.

Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, said many people would “never forgive” the Garden Party as “totally unforgivable”.

“It just makes fun of the idea that we were making a national effort to keep each other safe,” she said.

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