Hi, this is Hot Mic, and I'm Nidhi Razdan.
A little more than two years ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to its biggest election victory in decades in the UK. But today he is facing growing calls for his resignation. How much trouble is Boris Johnson really in? Well, for months now, the UK has been engulfed in what is called the Partygate scandal, in which the Prime Minister and his office have been directly implicated for holding or participating in illegal parties during Covid lockdowns imposed in the country.
Now, Boris Johnson has defended some of these as work gatherings, including in repeated statements to the House of Commons. The scandal has been a huge embarrassment for Johnson's conservative party, which has also suffered electoral setbacks in recent local polls. So far, BoJo, as he's called, has managed to survive the crisis pretty much by brazening it out. But now, more and more voices within his own party are calling for him to go. On Monday, one of the youngest MPs in the Conservative Party became the 26th Tory to publicly call for Boris Johnson to resign over the Partygate scandal.
For Conservative MPs to try and topple a leader, 15% of them have to write to the chair of the party's 1922 committee for a no confidence motion. So 15% of the current Tory MPs actually amounts to 54 MPs. Now that number does not appear to have been reached at the moment. And even if 54 letters are sent and a vote of confidence happens and another 126 Tory MPs would have to join them in voting the Prime Minister out.
So, that would bring the total Conservative MPs needed to bring Boris out of office to 180, which is half of their entire strength. So for Tory MPs, the big question now is whether Boris Johnson is an asset or a liability. The BBC has reported that a growing number of Tory MPs think that it's imminent for Johnson to face a confidence vote and that the numbers supporting that are now trickling in.
And incidentally, if he survives a vote, then there cannot be another vote against him for at least the next 12 months. So what is Partygate and what was the report that indicted Johnson? Well, the story first broke in the British press in November of 2021 and a leaked video of Downing Street staff joking about a party then set off a huge row. A senior civil servant named Sue Gray was assigned the task of investigating the Downing Street parties. She investigated 16 events and the police also probed these and found several breaches of the Covid rules during the pandemic.
The 16 events took place over a dozen dates between May of 2020 and April 2021 when Covid restrictions were in force in the country. Of these events, 12 were investigated by the Metropolitan Police, who issued 126 fines to 83 people, including the Prime Minister. Mr. Johnson, his wife, Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined for attending a birthday party for the PM in the Cabinet Room on 19th June, 2020. Ms. Gray also probed a Bring Your Own Booze party in the Downing Street Garden, attended by the Prime Minister on 20th May 2020. Her report criticizes the culture and leadership in Downing Street. It includes photographs of gatherings and the names of those who attended, or at least some of them. Her report includes nine photographs from inside Downing Street, and several of these show Johnson drinking with staff members.
In her conclusion, Gray says that, “the events I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen. The senior leadership at the center, both political and official must bear responsibility for this culture,” she says. The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behavior in Downing Street. And clearly what happened fell well short of this. Ms. Gray has named some senior officials and ministers in her final report. They include Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
In recent days, fresh pictures though, have emerged of Boris Johnson raising a glass at a number ten party in November 2020 during a national Covid lockdown. It shows him toasting a senior aide at a Downing Street leaving drinks event. At the time, indoor social mixing was completely banned due to a spike in Covid cases. And no more than two people were allowed to meet outside.
The November 13th party was said to be so cramped that people were standing literally shoulder to shoulder and sitting on each other's laps, according to a Downing Street official speaking anonymously to the BBC's Panorama program. It has now led to fresh accusations that Boris Johnson lied to the British Parliament, since he was asked about whether there was a party in Downing Street on the date in question. His answer- “no, but I'm sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and that the rules were followed at all times.” The next few weeks will be critical for Boris Johnson. He's already on the back foot over the economy and the cost of living crisis that has engulfed Britain. Will he be forced to step down or will he survive to fight another day.