Boris Johnson is under a lot of pressure over new quarantined ‘Partygate’ photos

Photos received ITV newsappears to show Johnson giving a toast during a colleague’s farewell party in November 2020; several bottles of alcohol are lying on the table in front of him. In some photos, Johnson appears to be giving a speech, ITV News reported.

At the time, socializing indoors was banned due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, and no more than two people were allowed to meet outside.

Johnson’s prime minister has been rocked by the so-called ‘Partygate’ scandal, which has seen months of parties and gatherings at the center of his government being accused at various stages of the pandemic lockdown.
The British prime minister initially said in December that there were no parties, but police eventually investigated eight events and Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak received fines for participating in one.

The new images sparked a new wave of outrage from opposition lawmakers and some colleagues in Johnson’s own Conservative Party.

The 13 November party is said to have been so close that people stood “shoulder to shoulder” and sat “on each other’s laps”, according to a Downing Street official who spoke anonymously to BBC Panorama.

“There were about 30 people in the room, if not more. Everyone stood shoulder to shoulder, some sat on each other’s knees (…),” the official said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. Asked to confirm that some participants sat on each other’s laps, the official replied, “Yes, one or two people.”

“The prime minister was on his way to his apartment to give a speech in honor of Lee Kane. [Johnson’s former director of communications]. He just wanted to thank Lee for all his work. He made a short speech on this matter,” the official added.

The photos cast doubt on a statement Johnson made in the House of Commons in December after being asked if there was a party in Downing Street on the given date.

“No, but I am sure that no matter what happens, the guidelines and rules have always been followed,” Johnson replied.

Deliberately misleading the House of Commons is a violation of the British government’s ministerial code and usually results in resignation.

Asked about how Johnson told Parliament that none of the lockdown rules had been broken, another official also anonymously told Panorama: “We were watching it all live and looking at each other incredulously, like, ‘Why? Why does he deny it?’ When we were with him all this time, we knew that the rules had been broken. We knew that these parties were. I mean, it’s quite clear that he lied to Parliament. [The parties] were every week. Invitations for Friday drinks at the press office just ended up in the diary.”

Asked if there were weekly regular drink invitations at the press office on Friday nights, the same official said: “Yes. Fridays where you can drink. The invitations that were on everyone’s calendar, for every Friday at 4:00 pm.”

CNN reached out to #10 for comment on the BBC Panorama report.

No. 10 was asked by Panorama to interview Johnson or a senior member of the government, but, according to the program, they declined.

“Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated that he knew nothing about the violation of the law – now there is no doubt that he lied,” said Deputy Labor Party leader Angela Rayner. “The prime minister has humiliated his post. He made the rules and then broke them. The British people deserve better.”

Conservative MP Roger Gale tweeted: “I believe the Prime Minister misled (the House of Commons) from the mailbox. It’s a matter of resignation.”

Boris Johnson breathed a sigh of relief after the Partygate scandal.  But there will be another crisis soon
Westminster awaits Gray’s release of civil servant Sue Gray’s account of the events of “Partygate”. In a brief communication about his investigation in January, Gray denounced the “failures of leadership” and “serious failure” to meet government standards.

The photos also caught the attention of the Metropolitan Police, whose own investigation into Downing Street parties delayed Gray’s investigation after officers decided not to fine Johnson for the event seen in the latest images.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday that it was important that “the police explain why they came to these conclusions”. And former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the BBC that the officers’ decision to acquit Johnson for the event was “incomprehensible.”

But Downing Street told CNN that police had access to photographs and other evidence during the investigation. In a statement, they added: “The Met has completed its investigation and Sue Gray will release her report in the coming days, after which the Prime Minister will give a full speech to Parliament.”

Johnson had previously apologized for the quarantine parties and vowed to make changes to the Downing Street operation.

The scandal tarnished Johnson’s reputation in the polls and compromised the security of his job for several months.

Conservative MPs have so far refused to initiate a no-confidence vote that, if passed, could force Johnson out of office. But last month’s disappointing local election results and two difficult parliamentary by-elections scheduled for June have forced a closer look at the British prime minister’s leadership.

Radina Gigova of CNN contributed to the story.

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