Boris Johnson told to ‘lead or step aside’ as more partygate claims surface

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Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure to get a grip on the drip feed of revelations about No 10 rule-breaking as he fights to stay in office.

He’s even coming under fire from fellow Tories. Former Conservative minister Tobias Ellwood said the prime minister must “lead or step aside”. He told the BBC: “We need leadership”.

The comments by the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee came as further claims emerged of regular “wine time Friday” gatherings in Downing Street while coronavirus (Covid-19) rules were in place.

‘Johnson must go’

People on the Left are calling for Johnson’s resignation too. People Before Profit – a group of workers and trade unionists, tweeted:

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Meanwhile 100 people in Boris Johnson masks partied outside Downing Street this week, mocking the prime minister’s two faced hypocrisy:

‘A long-standing No 10 tradition’

The Mirror said that the weekly events are a long-standing No 10 tradition, including under previous administrations. And they continued after coronavirus restrictions were introduced prohibiting indoor mixing between households.

The newspaper said staff bought a £142 fridge to keep their bottles of alcohol chilled. And Johnson was aware of the socialising.

A No 10 spokesperson said:

There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts around the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and the purpose with reference to adherence to the guidance at the time.

The findings will be made public in due course.

Ministers have called on disgruntled Tory MPs to wait until senior civil servant Sue Gray has published her investigation into claims about lockdown-busting parties in government.

But backbencher Andrew Bridgen said he did “not need to see what Sue Gray says to know that, for me, Boris Johnson has lost the moral authority to lead the country”. The North West Leicestershire MP confirmed he submitted a letter of no confidence in Johnson’s leadership “some time ago”.

Only a handful of Tories have publicly declared they’ve submitted letters to the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs. But the Telegraph said sources estimated about 20 might have been handed in – although that’s well short of the 54 needed to trigger a leadership vote.

Wine time Friday

Bridgen, asked by BBC Breakfast about reports of “wine time Friday” sessions in Downing Street during lockdown, said:

It doesn’t matter, quite honestly, if the Prime Minister was present or not present.

Ultimately, he is responsible for what goes on in Government, he is responsible for the culture in No 10, and what we’re seeing is a culture where it is one rule for them and the rest of us do as we’re told, and that’s just not acceptable.

I’m not sure that any apology is going to put that right.

Johnson faced further embarrassment this week after Downing Street was forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace on Friday 14 January. It came after it emerged that two staff parties were reportedly held on the eve of the duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Witnesses said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music as two after-work events merged on 16 April 2021. A person was sent to a local shop with a suitcase to buy wine, according to the Telegraph, which first reported the allegations.

Gray is said to have been “completely blindsided” by the latest revelations, the Times reported.

The newspaper said the Cabinet Office official is concerned that Downing Street staff are withholding information about parties from her as she looks to establish the facts.

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