Johnson refuses to say if he could quit over probe
People's Daily Online

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on March 23, 2020.(Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street/Handout via Xinhua)

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to say whether he would quit if an ongoing police inquiry finds that he broke lockdown laws during the pandemic.

During a BBC interview, Johnson was asked numerous times, but declined to answer directly, saying: "I can't comment about a process that is underway." When asked if people should find his explanation about attending Downing Street gatherings being probed by the police plausible, he said: "There is literally not a bean I can tell you about that."

Early in the pandemic, government posters showed a COVID-19 patient wearing an oxygen mask, with the slogan "look her in the eyes and tell her you never bend the rules. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives".

But toward the end of 2021, reports emerged of gatherings having taken place at Johnson's Downing Street office, and in government buildings.

On Dec 1, Johnson told Parliament "all guidance was followed completely in (Downing Street)". A week later, he told a BBC interview "all the guidelines were observed".

The following day, a recording of Downing Street staff joking about lockdown parties was leaked to ITV News, which Johnson said left him "sickened" and "furious", but he added that "I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken".

On Dec 13, he told Sky News "I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules … all that is being looked into", a week before The Guardian published pictures of him at a large outdoor gathering in Downing Street in May 2020.

Johnson's response to this was "people at work, talking about work", although in January 2021, he apologized to the House of Commons, admitting he had attended but that he "believed implicitly that it was a work event" and so "technically" no rules were broken.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray led an inquiry into the lockdown gatherings, and her report has only been partially published so far, because of ongoing police inquiries into 12 of the 16 social events she looked at.

Johnson is one of around 50 people to have been sent a questionnaire by London's Metropolitan Police service relating to the gatherings, with The Guardian reporting that he attended as many as six of those under investigation.

Several of Johnson's own Conservative Party members of Parliament have publicly called for him to go, as have senior figures from other parties, but Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told Sky News that it would not be good for the country to have "a vacuum at the center of government" in the current global climate.

When asked if this meant Johnson should carry on regardless of the police findings, Cleverly said: "That's exactly how you should take it."

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said if Johnson would not go, then he should be pushed.

"Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister," he said.

"If Johnson is found to have broken the law, he must fess up and resign. No more cover-ups, no more lies.

"If he won't resign, Conservative MPs must do the right thing and sack him.

"For a sitting prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law would be unprecedented and put to bed once and for all the Conservative Party's claim to be the party of law and order."