UK investigation into Covid lockdown parties says senior leadership ‘must bear responsibility’

Opposition lawmakers accuse Johnson of having knowingly misled Parliament.
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LONDON — A highly anticipated investigation into numerous Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office and residence has been released, intensifying pressure on the embattled Conservative Party leader.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray had launched an inquiry following media reports of gatherings and alleged parties in government buildings during Covid lockdowns over the last two years.

Gray’s interim report, published in a redacted form in late January, sharply criticized government leadership and made clear that some government parties should not have been allowed to take place.

A full version of the report had been delayed due to a separate police inquiry. The Metropolitan Police’s investigation resulted in 126 fines to 83 people, including Johnson, his partner Carrie Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.

Johnson is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons later in the day.

Gray’s full report comes after even more revelations in recent days of further alcohol-fueled social events held in Downing Street during Covid lockdowns, with Johnson pictured raising a glass at a leaving do on Nov. 13, 2020.

The images, obtained by ITV News, prompted fresh claims from opposition lawmakers that Johnson had knowingly misled Parliament when he previously told the House of Commons that no rules had been broken.

Johnson has repeatedly resisted calls to resign from across the political spectrum, despite sustained public anger over a long and growing list of alleged lockdown breaches.

When asked on Wednesday whether public opinion likely reflected the end of the road for Johnson’s time in office, Ipsos CEO Ben Page said: “On the numbers I have at the moment, not yet.”

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” in Davos, Switzerland, Page said Johnson “is unpopular but the fact that people think he may have lied in one way is priced in. Boris Johnson lying? Tell me a new story.”

“His opponent Keir Starmer is doing a bit better in the polls, the Labour Party has a small lead, but overall, none of the numbers indicate that an Australian-like event — where the Labor Party swept to power — is going to happen in Britain,” Page said.

“He might yet again get away with it,” he added.

Lawmakers who deliberately mislead Parliament are expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister, according to the Ministerial Code, an official set of principles on how politicians should conduct themselves. This guidance is not law, however, and it is ultimately up to the prime minister to decide on how to interpret and enforce it.

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