UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was facing calls for his resignation on Thursday after a leaked video showed his staff joking about hosting an illegal Christmas party while the country underwent strict COVID-19 restrictions last year.
According to a report from the British tabloid The Daily Mirror, the party took place on December 18, 2020, and involved food and drinks, party games, and a secret Santa gift exchange.
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s most senior member of Parliament, said that the “only right and moral choice left” for Johnson is to quit.
“Trust in leadership is a matter of life and death. Downing Street willfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made, shattering the public’s trust,” Blackford said in Parliament on Wednesday.
“The prime minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people. He can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands,” he said.
If Johnson does not resign, Blackford said, “he must be removed.”
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“The Prime Minister is in it up to his neck,” he wrote on Twitter. “His actions have undermined public trust and distracted from key public health messaging at a critical time. Serious times call for serious leadership and it is clear that Boris Johnson isn’t up to the job.”
Anger has been mounting among Johnson’s own Conservative colleagues over the leaked video, as well as new COVID-19 restrictions that the prime minister announced on Wednesday.
One Conservative MP, William Wragg, on Wednesday shouted “Resign!” as Health Secretary Sajid Javid, also a Conservative, spoke in the House of Commons, while other MPs heckled him.
Johnson has apologized for the video, which was shot in December 2020, and said he was “shocked” to see it emerge. It depicts a mock news conference in which his former press secretary Allegra Stratton joked about the supposed Christmas party.
The video was obtained by ITV News in the days after sources told media outlets that there had been a party in the prime minister’s Downing Street office that broke COVID-19 rules at the time.
“I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night. Do you recognize those reports?” Ed Oldfield, an advisor to the prime minister, can be heard asking in the video.
“I went home,” Stratton said with a laugh.
“Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?” Oldfield then asked.
“What’s the answer?” Stratton joked.
At the time of the party and mock news conference, the UK was under Tier 3 restrictions, which limited indoor gatherings to groups of two and prohibited office parties.
Stratton resigned over the video, saying she would “regret the remarks for the rest of my days.”
After first denying a party occurred, Johnson announced on Wednesday during a speech at the House of Commons that he would be opening an investigation into the event.
“If rules have been broken, there will be disciplinary action for all those involved,” he said.