British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing renewed calls to resign following a report that he attended a birthday party in June 2020 while the rest of the country struggled under government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown rules that forbade such gatherings.
What are the details?
ITV News reported this week that Johnson and his wife, Carrie Johnson, joined up to 30 guests in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, on June 19, 2020, for a surprise gathering put on to celebrate Johnson's birthday upon his return from an official visit to Hertfordshire.
According to the British news outlet, the Johnsons further breached lockdown protocols later that evening when they hosted family and friends upstairs in the prime minister's residence.
ITV said the Cabinet Room shindig lasted roughly 30 minutes and that guests enjoyed food and other refreshments while a birthday cake was presented to the prime minister. The outlet claimed that the party was organized by Johnson's wife and his interior designer, Lulu Lytle.
In a statement to the Washington Post on Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesperson admitted that staff members "gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday," but said, "He was there for less than 10 minutes."
In response to other claims — such as that Carrie Johnson organized the party and that it included 30 guests, cake, and singing — the spokesperson said, "This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time, the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening."
What's the background?
News of the birthday gathering sparked further backlash against the prime minister, who was already under fire for attending a separate "drinks party" at 10 Downing Street last May, again amid his own government's lockdown.
Johnson apologized for his attendance at the latter party in front of a packed House of Commons earlier this month, acknowledging the "rage" that many U.K. residents may feel when they believe that "in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules."
But he defended himself, as well, claiming that he only stayed at the party for 25 minutes in order to "thank groups of staff" for their hard work and added that he "believed implicitly that this was a work event."
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologies for attending lockdown party - BBC Newsyoutu.be
The U.K. government is currently investigating these party allegations, and results are expected to be released relatively soon.
BBC News reported that some members of Parliament and senior figures in Johnson's own Conservative Party responded to the June 2020 allegations by denouncing the prime minister's behavior, while others called on the public to reserve judgment until the investigation is complete.
Members of the opposition Labor Party, however, hammered the prime minister for his hypocrisy. They pointed to a letter that Johnson sent to then-7-year-old Josephine Booth in March 2020, consoling her and praising her for canceling her own birthday party amid coronavirus restrictions.
Labour leader Keir Starmer reportedly reiterated his call for Boris Johnson to resign, saying, "The prime minister is a national distraction and he's got to go."