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Johnson eyes Downing Street overhaul to avert ‘political death’
Boris Johnson under fire over reports his office held multiple parties while England was in lockdown
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly expected to conduct a shake-up of Downing Street staff amid growing pressure over a number of parties allegedly held by his office in breach of Covid lockdown rules.
The Financial Times has reported that Johnson will launch a major restructuring of his top staff in an effort to cling to power as public and political criticism mounts against his government.
Speaking anonymously to the FT, one individual identified as an ally of Johnson claimed that “Boris realises he’s lost another of his nine lives and this is a brush with political death.” The changes are apparently intended to help Johnson survive in office until the local elections on May 5.
The Conservative Party’s performance at the local elections is likely to serve as a significant barometer of Johnson’s continued leadership, as he struggles to maintain the support of his own MPs.
The Telegraph reported on Friday that two staff parties took place on April 16, 2021, the night before the funeral of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. At the time, England was under Covid restrictions and the country was in a period of national mourning over the royal’s death. The prime minister’s spokesperson on Friday issued a very short statement saying it was “deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning.”
He said Downing Street has apologized to Buckingham Palace in light of the reports, while refusing to publicly confirm what exactly No. 10 is sorry for doing.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Police released a statement on the reported parties, saying that while it is “aware” of the alleged breaches, it will await the results of an internal government inquiry before deciding if it will launch an investigation into whether the behavior constitutes “a criminal offence.”
However, on Friday, the Good Law Project (GLP), which has been pushing the Met to formally investigate the allegations, said the police force has since shifted its position. On its website, the GLP said it has been told by the Met that it has not “made a decision about whether to investigate” earlier allegations of parties in Downing Street.
On Wednesday, in the House of Commons, the prime minister stated he would “take responsibility” for attending a garden party at Downing Street during the May 2020 lockdown. Arguing he believed it was a “work event,” Johnson admitted he “went into that garden just after 6pm…to thank groups of staff.”
Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been tasked by the government with carrying out an internal inquiry into a number of the alleged parties.
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