The United Kingdom is about to release an internal investigation report into the Prime Minister’s Office suspected of violating the new crown epidemic prevention regulations by holding multiple gatherings, and Prime Minister Johnson is facing new pressure to resign.
In the Prime Minister’s Questions and Answers in the British Parliament on Wednesday (January 26), Johnson once again stated that he will not resign, while the leader of the largest opposition Labour Party, Sir Starmer, criticized Johnson’s gathering in Downing Street during the epidemic, and he was not open to the public. “Do the best you can with contempt”.
Whether or not Johnson will resign is largely not up to him, but depends on his support in the ruling Conservative Party. The forthcoming release of the “Grey Inquiry” will greatly affect the confidence of Conservative MPs in him.
It is worth mentioning that the London police have also announced an investigation into the violations of laws and regulations by government officials and staff during the epidemic.
Just before the Gray’s investigation report is about to be released, the British media once again revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office held a birthday party for Johnson in June 2020. Johnson’s response to the party was that he only attended briefly, only to know it was a birthday party for himself when he entered, and the Prime Minister’s Office staff said Johnson “leaves in less than 10 minutes”.
To understand the ins and outs of Johnson’s “party gate”, it is necessary to know the following five key points:
What is Gray investigating? Why is it important?
The forthcoming report of Gray’s investigation can be described as “highly anticipated”. When Johnson was caught in the “partygate” political crisis two weeks ago, the investigation was still ongoing and he was used as a “shield” for refusing to resign immediately. In the face of pressure from the public, public opinion and opposition parties to resign at the time, Johnson said that he should not rush to a conclusion on what he did, and wait for the report to come out.
The so-called Gray Report is an investigation by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant appointed by Prime Minister Johnson, into allegations that government officials violated epidemic prevention regulations.
According to media reports, during the British lockdown, there were 17 gatherings suspected of violating anti-epidemic regulations at the Prime Minister’s Office and other government offices in Downing Street.
Gray’s investigation was asked to find out the nature, purpose, and who attended the gatherings, and what regulations were in place at the time.
But this is an internal investigation by the British government rather than an independent investigation. The prime minister appointed Gray to run the “fair and impartial” investigation, but set the terms of the investigation and the final outcome would be reported to the prime minister.
The investigative team spoke to current and former staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, including Dominic Cummings, a former close adviser to the prime minister.
At present, it is still inconclusive whether the investigative report will be released in summary form or in full.
What are the London police investigating?
London police said they were investigating “potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations” since 2020 at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s office, and government departments.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the decision to launch an investigation was based on information from Gray’s investigation team and “the officer’s self-assessment”.
Dick also said the police investigation will look into allegations that “appear to be the most serious and flagrant violations” of anti-epidemic regulations.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the announcement by the Metropolitan Police of the investigation meant that parts of Gray’s investigation would not be released until after the police investigation had concluded.
Can a British Prime Minister be forced to step down without an election?
Unlike the US, the UK’s prime minister is not directly elected. As the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Johnson must have the support of MPs in his party to keep the prime minister’s post.
With Mr Johnson facing allegations of misleading Parliament and the public, MPs within the Conservative Party dissatisfied with the prime minister’s leadership can express their distrust in him by writing a formal letter.
If 54 ruling Conservative MPs submit a letter of no confidence in him, the Conservatives will go to a party vote. If the prime minister fails to win the vote, the campaign for a new leader will begin.
The Conservative Party has 460 members of the House of Commons.
Despite criticism from both inside and outside the party, only a handful of Conservative MPs have publicly expressed distrust of him. Some Conservative MPs are believed to be privately considering submitting letters of no confidence.
How many party allegations has the Prime Minister’s Office faced?
In addition to the June 2020 birthday party exposed this time, during the British lockdown to fight the epidemic, Downing Street was also accused of holding several other parties.
On May 20, 2020, about 30 people attended a “bring your own drink” party at the Prime Minister’s Office, including Prime Minister Johnson and his wife. Johnson said he thought it was a “working arrangement.”
On November 27, 2020, Downing Street was accused of hosting a farewell party for a departing staff member. At that time, the whole country was in a state of lockdown, and any indoor gatherings with other families were strictly prohibited except when necessary for work.
On December 15, 2020, Downing Street was accused of hosting a quiz party with prizes. At the time, London was in the second stage of its anti-epidemic measures, which prohibited more than two people who did not live together from meeting indoors unless there was an essential work reason.
On December 18, 2020, in a funny video of a news conference that was exposed, Downing Street was accused of hosting a Christmas party. According to the regulations at the time, any Christmas dinners were not allowed.
What lockdown measures has the UK implemented in 2020?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK has a variety of regulatory and legal restrictions on conduct that may spread the virus. Legal restrictions will be punished once found to be violated, and violations may even be prosecuted.
In terms of epidemic prevention regulations, on the day when No. 10 Downing Street Garden was accused of partying and drinking (May 20, 2020), Oliver Dowden, the British government minister responsible for digital, culture, media and sports, presided over the meeting. The government’s televised briefing on the new crown epidemic.
He told the British public that day: “You can only meet one person outside your family in the open air, and you must maintain a two-meter distance.”
In addition, the UK’s anti-epidemic measures also include that no one is allowed to leave the residence without a reasonable reason, and cannot go outside the residence, except for work (for those who cannot work from home), fitness and purchasing food/medicine.
Breach of these restrictions can see police in England fined £100 for first offenders and double the fine for each offender, up to a maximum of £3,200.
The government led by Johnson has formulated various anti-epidemic measures for the people, and weddings and funerals are limited by the number of people. In the context of the fight against the epidemic when many people lost their loved ones and were unable to see their last faces, or even attend funerals for their last journey, the Prime Minister and government officials under his leadership were accused of disregarding laws and regulations and continuing to entertain and gather as usual.
If Gray’s investigation report can be fully released, the outside world may have a chance to see more details about the parties involved in government officials during the epidemic prevention period.