Boris Johnson apology ‘not enough’ says Kuenssberg
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The Prime Minister today faced renewed calls to hand in his resignation after apologising for attending a “bring your own booze” party during the first coronavirus lockdown. He told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that the event at the Downing Street garden was “technically within the rules” but he should have realised what it would have looked like to the public. Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer skewered him over his apology, describing his explanation as “ridiculous”.
Mr Johnson is also under pressure from his own MPs about the party, among which there is growing discontent.
After PMQs, he reportedly toured the Commons tea rooms in a bid to shore up support among his backbenchers.
If 54 of them send letters to the 1922 committee — the influential backbench group which runs Tory leadership contests — it will trigger a challenge.
So far, Mr Johnson appears to be steadfast in his conviction that he will not resign until conclusions of a report opened into the party are made.
Yet, looking back on his career in other times of political crisis, Mr Johnson appeared far more ready to admit defeat and “surrender”.
This was true of a speech he made at the opening of the British Press Awards in 2010, when he offered a tongue-in-cheek, unconditional surrender on behalf of all British politicians at the height of the MPs’ expenses scandal.
At the time, the Daily Telegraph had drip-fed an increasingly angry British public with details about expenses MPs were claiming on things from duck houses to moat cleaning, phantom mortgages to flipping houses.
Many lost their jobs as a result, with some even ending up in prison.
Speaking at the event, Mr Johnson said: “I appear before you tonight with the trembling hesitation of some Japanese general emerging from a bunker after Nagasaki or like some shell-shocked Iraqi soldier emerging after months of shock and awe or some pitiful blue-nosed Avatar character overwhelmed by superior firepower.
“On behalf of all British politicians, I have come tonight to the British Press Association [sic] to convey our unconditional surrender.
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“You have won. You have bugged our phones. You have abolished our second home allowances. You have confiscated our porn videos and made it unacceptable for us to charge the taxpayer for something as straightforward as pruning wisteria.”
He added: “I come to you to propose, as a gesture of submission, that we change places and that we formally recognise your trounce by encouraging you to assume the responsibility you have foisted on us.”
Sharing the old speech, Dominic Ponsford, the editor in chief of Press Gazette, wrote on Twitter: “In March 2010, then London Mayor Boris Johnson told journalists at the British Press Awards: ‘We surrender…you have won.’
“It was at the peak of the MPs’ expenses scandal.
“Maybe he should dust off that surrender letter.”
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Many have compared the MPs’ expenses scandal with the events currently unfolding in Westminster.
Caroline Gammel, writing in a piece for The Independent, recently said the debacle was “reminiscent” of the scandal but had a “twist”, chronicling how her work with the Telegraph at the time of the expenses scandal led to increased anger and fury, much like the events of today.
Meanwhile, voices from across the political spectrum have since chimed in to give their verdict on Mr Johnson’s actions.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, said any financial penalty bestowed on the Prime Minister “will not repair the damage he has done”.
He told PA: “I do not accept the Prime Minister’s so-called apology.
“While he and his team were partying, I couldn’t attend my brother’s funeral. He died alone because we knew that the health of the nation depended on us playing our part.
“Any financial penalty he receives will not repair the damage he has done, but there have to be legal consequences or the rule of law means nothing.”
Labour’s Chris Bryant told MPs: “I mean, how stupid does the Prime Minister think the British people are?
“The worst of it is he’s already managed to completely destroy Allegra Stratton’s career, he’s tarnished the reputation of Lord Geidt, and now he’s making fools of every single MP who cheered him earlier, every single one who goes out on the radio and television to defend this shower of shenanigans.
“Would it not be absolutely despicable if, in the search for a scapegoat, some junior member of staff ends up losing their job, but he kept his?”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner focused her ire on Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab after Conservative MP Simon Hoare suggested that the “bring your own booze” party was organised as a “thank you” to Mr Raab for stepping up while Mr Johnson was ill with COVID-19.
She said: “If the Deputy Prime Minister also attended this party, he needs to come clean.
“The public has a right to know if any other senior Tories were at this party while the rest of the country was locked down.”
She also criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for “running away” from the issue after he did not turn up to PMQs, accusing him of skipping the meeting to avoid answering questions.
Mr Sunak lives and works in No 11, a property which overlooks the Downing Street garden.
Ms Rayner added: “Rather than running away hundreds of miles, the Chancellor, who lives next door, should finally answer questions of how he could have been unaware of boozy parties immediately outside his own office. Time for them all to come clean.”
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