British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a make-or-break week for his premiership as lawmakers await the findings of a probe into 10 Downing Street parties held during COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
Sue Gray, a senior British civil servant who is currently second permanent secretary in the cabinet office, leads the investigation and is expected to report her findings later this week.
As part of the investigation, Gray will on Monday interview Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, who revealed earlier last week that the PM knew the party held in his garden would break pandemic lockdown rules.
Cummings said he would “swear under oath” that Johnson was told about the controversy-marred bash.
The UK premier, however, has rejected the allegations, claiming that “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that was not a work event.”
Johnson has given a flurry of excuses and explanations about the party at different points. Firstly he rejected the fact that rules had been broken but then apologized to the British people for the apparent hypocrisy of such gatherings, when the nation was mourning those killed by the pandemic.
Several prominent lawmakers from both Conservative and Labour parties have called on the prime minister to resign over the scandal, which has snowballed into a major crisis for his government.
Former ministers, Caroline Nokes and David Davis, and dozens of others have already submitted no-confidence letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.
However, a total of 54 out of 359 conservative lawmakers are required to submit the same letter if a no-confidence vote is to be triggered against Johnson.
According to The Telegraph, a group of police officers guarding Johnson’s office at the time of lockdown-breaching parties have also been interviewed by Gray for the probe, and they have given “extremely damning” evidence.
On how significant their information was, a source told the British newspaper: “Put it this way, if Boris Johnson is still prime minister by the end of the week, I’d be very surprised.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, stressed that the prime minister “cannot be allowed to cover up or obscure any of the truth when he has insisted on a hugely protracted internal probe to tell him which parties he attended and what happened in his own home.”
Meanwhile, Johnson is also facing claims about anti-Muslim discrimination in his cabinet, after a lawmaker revealed that she was fired from a ministerial job in the government partly because of her Muslim faith.
Nusrat Ghani, 49, who lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020, told the Sunday Times that she had been told by a “whip” that her “Muslimness” was raised as an issue in her sacking.
The British prime minister is now facing a serious leadership challenge in his own party following the furious backlash that may lead to his resignation from power.
The exit of Johnson would leave Britain in limbo for months as the world’s fifth largest economy grapples with a once-in-a-generation large inflationary wave.