British lawmakers of the ruling Conservative Party are reportedly prepared to oust Boris Johnson if the prime minister tries to dodge responsibility for the widely-criticized social gatherings at Downing Street during COVID-19 lockdowns.
According to The Observer, Tory MPs would be ready in sufficient numbers to force Johnson out of Downing Street “within weeks” if he denies responsibility for rule-breaking parties at No 10 during the stringent pandemic-induced curbs.
The daily paper said while most Conservative MPs are waiting for an investigation report on the much-frowned upon "partygate” before deciding the prime minister’s fate, large numbers admit privately that their minds are effectively made up and that they are merely observing “due process.”
Senior civil servant Sue Gray has launched an investigation into several alleged lockdown-breaking parties held by Jonson and his government staff during the coronavirus restrictions, and is due to report her findings by the end of the month.
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, a former foreign office minister, said Johnson had to demonstrate within days that he could end the chaos for good and demonstrate a new kind of leadership.
“But if he tries to spin his way out of a critical report, he will lose my support,” he said.
Peter Aldous, the Tory MP for Waveney in Suffolk, said he was close to calling for Johnson’s resignation though he would wait for Gray’s report, adding that many pro-Brexit voters in his constituency were among those who were outraged by the Downing Street gatherings.
“An awful lot people who voted Brexit do feel very badly let down,” he said, pointing out that this was not because of the effects of Brexit but because of Johnson’s personal behavior.
A panel of Tory activists assembled by the ConservativeHome website found 53% believed Johnson should resign immediately.
“That over half of party members want the prime minister out, if this return is representative, is a humiliating result for him, and shows a loss of confidence that may not be reversed,” said Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP and editor of the website.
Johnson has come under harsh criticism following reports that more than 100 members of his staff were invited to a party in the garden of his official residence in May 2020.
The British government was also taken to task for new revelations of partying, including two events late into the night at No 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last April, when such gatherings were forbidden due to the pandemic.