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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: BLOOMBERG
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Boris Johnson’s leadership faced its most serious threat yet on Tuesday after it emerged his private secretary invited more than 100 people to a “bring your own booze” party at the British prime minister’s official residence during a coronavirus lockdown.

Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, has faced intense scrutiny over the past month after a video emerged showing his staff joking about a different party also held in Downing Street during the 2020 Christmas lockdown.

Revelations about a series of gatherings that took place in the heart of government have been widely criticised and prompted opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to accuse Johnson of lacking the moral authority to lead the country.

The latest, if substantiated by an internal inquiry, would be the most damaging yet for Johnson’s future as his own MPs show signs of losing patience. Polls show the Conservatives slipping behind Labour.

Johnson and his wife, Carrie, gathered with about 40 staff in the garden of Downing Street on May 20 2020, after the prime minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, sent an invitation by e-mail using the pronoun “we”, ITV reported.

Johnson’s spokesperson declined to comment.

At the time, schools were shut to most pupils, and pubs and restaurants were closed, with strict controls on social mixing. Police prosecuted revellers, and people were prevented from bidding farewell in person to dying relatives.

“If the prime minister broke the law, he will resign won’t he?” Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asked paymaster-general Michael Ellis, who sat alone on the government’s front bench in parliament to answer in place of Johnson. Only a smattering of Conservative MPs attended the debate, and few spoke in support of Johnson.

A senior official, Sue Gray, is investigating allegations of at least five parties held in government departments in 2021 during lockdown restrictions.

Asked about the claims of Downing Street parties, Johnson told parliament in December that no rules had been broken and that there had been no party in Downing Street.

In recent months, Johnson has faced criticism over his handling of a sleaze scandal and the awarding of lucrative Covid-19 contracts.

Reuters

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