UK’s Johnson under pressure over fresh lockdown party claims

By Patricia Rodríguez

London, Jan 11 (EFE).- The British government is facing intense criticism and pressure to explain allegations that prime minister Boris Johnson attended a social gathering in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 when the rest of the country was in the grip of Covid-19 restrictions.

The latest in a slew of similar accusations to surface in the UK press alleges that at least 40 people attended the garden party, where they had food and drinks, at the prime minister’s official residence.

Once again the allegations have provided ammunition to Johnson’s political foes and sparked a backlash from the general public which at that stage of the pandemic was ordered to abide by tough restrictions on social life, separating them from friends and family during the first Covid lockdown.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement that it was in contact with the Cabinet Office over the allegations amid wider calls for a police investigation into the events.

An internal inquiry, led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, is already probing the list of parties allegedly held at Downing Street despite lockdown rules.

This internal procedure will be extended to the latest accusations, which surfaced when an email from Johnson’s secretary Martin Reynolds, inviting around 100 government staff to a B.Y.O.B (‘Bring Your Own Booze’) gathering, was published by ITV News.

Eye-witnesses told the BBC that Johnson and his wife Carrie were present at the event, although the prime minister has yet to comment on the matter.

In an urgent questions session called by the opposition Labour Party in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis, sent out in place of Johnson, apologized for the “upset the allegations caused.”

He declined to answer concrete questions about the issue at hand, however, saying it would be handled by Gray’s investigation.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner — who requested the urgent session — said Johnson “can run, but he can’t hide.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “​​Boris Johnson, your deflections and distractions are absurd. Not only did you know about the parties in Downing Street, you attended them. Stop lying to the British public. It’s time to finally come clean.”

At the time of the alleged party, UK citizens were only allowed to meet up with one person from another household outside, maintaining a social distance of two meters.

The alleged garden party is the latest in a raft of similar allegations against Johnson’s government, which includes another garden party on 15 May 2020 and a Christmas party and quiz in December 2020, among others. EFE


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