Former UK Minister Joins Call for Johnson to Resign Over Partygate Saga

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily first joined the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times before turning her focus on the UK in 2020.
February 5, 2022Updated: May 4, 2022

Two more British Conservative lawmakers, one of them a former minister, on Friday joined the call for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign.

Former minister Nick Gibb and MP Aaron Bell on Friday became the latest of the 15 Tory MPs who publicly called for Johnson’s removal, saying the prime minister has breached the public’s trust in the so-called “Partygate” saga.

Tory MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond said he is “considering very carefully this weekend” whether he still has confidence in the prime minister and to him, it “certainly looks like” the beginning of the end.

But former Conservative minister Dr. Liam Fox said the currently debate is “diminishing the focus” that should be paid to other political issues including inflation rises and Ukraine.

If Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of all backbench Conservative MPs, receives letters of no confidence from 15 percent or 54 of the Conservative MPs, a vote will be triggered, and Johnson could potentially be ousted with 180 votes of no confidence.

‘Partygate’ Saga

The prime minister has been mired in the so-called Partygate crisis for over two months since the Mirror reported rule-breaking parties had taken place in Downing Street in 2020 when the country was under CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus lockdowns that were imposed by the Conservative government and—with Labour’s support—approved by Parliament.

Johnson assured Parliament the alleged parties were work events, “there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken” before more partying allegations dripped through media headlines—including gatherings at which Johnson was present, one gathering at his own flat, a “bring your own booze” (BYOB) garden party, and two parties on the Eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, during which Queen Elizabeth had to wear a mask and was socially distanced to her family.

After it emerged he was at the BYOB party on May 20, 2020, Johnson apologised to MPs on Jan. 12, saying he was present for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff,” and he “believed implicitly that this was a work event.”

Queen Elizabeth
The coffin of Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, who died at the age of 99, is taken into St. George’s Chapel for a funeral service, in Windsor, Britain, on April 17, 2021. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via Reuters)

During England’s CCP virus lockdowns, people have been told to stay at home. Visits to family members in their homes, care homes, and hospitals were limited, and the number of people permitted to attend funerals was also restricted.

The allegations led to a Downing Street apology to the monarch, an internal investigation into 16 alleged gatherings that found “failures of leadership and judgment” by parts of Johnson’s office and the Cabinet Office, and an ongoing police investigation into 12 of the alleged law-breaking gatherings.

It also led to the resignation of one of Johnson’s senior aides and is the likely reason for three other senior aides’ departure.

Allegra Stratton
Downing Street spokeswoman Allegra Stratton reads a resignation statement outside her home in London on Dec. 8, 2021.  (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Allegra Stratton resigned on Dec. 8, 2021, as Johnson’s spokeswoman after a video emerged showing her joking about the alleged parties.  Jack Doyle, Downing Street director of communications; Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary; and Dan Rosenfield, No 10 chief of staff, who have all been implicated in the affair, resigned on Thursday. Downing Street said they were “mutual decisions” that the three should resign.

Simon Case, who was initially heading the internal investigation, also had to recuse himself after he was reported to have attended one of the gatherings. He was then replaced by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Amid brewing sentiment that Johnson has become a liability to the Conservative Party, the prime minister has asked MPs to hold off calls for him to resign until Gray’s report is published. But the long-awaited report had to be heavily redacted because the Metropolitan Police asked Gray to make “minimal reference” to the events under police investigation.

Johnson’s Position ‘Untenable’: Tory MP

Bell, the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, confirmed on Friday that he had written a letter of no confidence to Brady.

Writing on Twitter on Friday, Bell said he had supported Johnson and Brexit and was “profoundly disappointed” with how things progressed.

The “2019 intake” MP said he struggled to square Johnson’s words on Jan. 12 and his previous assurance that no rules had been broken, or to reconcile assurances given directly to him with the implications of the interim findings (pdf) of the Gray inquiry.

“The breach of trust that the events in No 10 Downing Street represent, and the manner in which they have been handled, makes his position untenable,” Bell said of Johnson’s position as the prime minister, adding that he believes it’s “in the country’s best interest” to resolve the matter as soon as possible.”

Bell’s announcement was echoed by Gibb, who held a number of government roles under three prime ministers.

Writing in The Telegraph, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton said that the Conservative Party must face the “hard truths,” adding: “To restore trust, we need to change the prime minister.”

Gibb said his constituents were “furious” that Downing Street was “flagrantly disregarding” the “harsh and, to my mind, necessary” CCP virus rules that it had imposed, but their “gravest concerns” were in the prime minister’s dealings with Parliament.

“The prime minister told Parliament in December last year that he had been ‘repeatedly assured that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.’ Sue Gray’s report says that there were at least 15 social gatherings and that 12 of them, including one in the prime minister’s flat, are now being investigated by the police,” he wrote.

“It was inaccurate, therefore, to tell the House of Commons that there was no party. As the prime minister attended at least two of these gatherings, probably more, it is disingenuous to rely on the ‘I was assured’ defence.”

‘Partygate’ Debate ‘Diminishing the Focus’ on Big Issues: Liam Fox

Fox told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme that he had not sent a letter of no confidence.

“If I had been unhappy with the prime minister, I would have put a letter in to Sir Graham Brady, which I have not done today,” he said, adding that it’s “very clear” the 15 percent threshold where MPs are not happy with Johnson had not been reached.

The senior Tory MP said he’s waiting to see the Gray report as the redacted version didn’t have all the information.

“There’s nothing new to say on this debate we keep going on and on about it. Not only I think is it diminishing the focus that we’ve got on other big issues, on the inflation that we’re seeing not only in Britain but across the West, the crisis in our energy prices at the present time, the situation in Ukraine, and I’m worried that we’re becoming a one-issue political system at the present time,” he said.

“And that is not only damaging what’s happening, I think, in the broader politics of the UK but with our allies as well.”

Epoch Times Photo
Undated photo showing Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Johnson has committed to publishing Gray’s full report following the Met’s investigation, saying he would “publish everything that we can as soon as the process has been completed,” while Downing Street said the public will be told if the prime minister receives fines over lockdown-rule-breaking.

Sir Keir Starmer was also accused of breaking lockdown rules after a photo emerged showing him holding a beer in an office with a few people, but the Labour leader denied breaking the rules, saying he was taking a dinner break to have some takeaways during work.

No 10 Downing Street didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.