SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

‘Terrible’: UK minister sorry for COVID lockdown party video

As COVID rule-breaking gatherings continue to hang over the government, senior British minister Michael Gove branded a video showing a party at the ruling Conservative Party’s offices during a lockdown in 2020 as “terrible.”

The Mirror newspaper revealed the video just days after a parliamentary committee determined that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had knowingly deceived MPs about rule-breaking lockdown parties at his office.

The 45-second clip shows revellers partying in December 2020 when the British public in London were banned from socialising indoors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

People can be seen dancing and drinking in the video. Two of those at the gathering, which had previously been investigated by police when a still photo of it emerged, were given honours by Johnson in his resignation list earlier this month.

“It’s terrible,” Gove, the housing minister, told Sky News. “I think it’s completely out of order. I just want to apologise to everyone really.”

The issue of rule-breaking during COVID lockdowns helped bring down Johnson, who left office last year, and still hangs over the Conservatives and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Johnson stepped down as a member of parliament on June 9, days before the privileges committee – the main disciplinary body for lawmakers – issued its damning verdict on him, re-opening divisions in the party and re-igniting public anger.

Polls suggest the Conservatives, in power since 2010, are trailing the opposition Labour party by about 20% percentage points. The next election must be held by late 2024.

VOTE ON JOHNSON

Lawmakers will vote on Monday on whether to endorse the privileges committee’s report. Although largely symbolic now Johnson has quit as a lawmaker, his supporters have said those who backed its findings could face a backlash from Conservative members and even face de-selection as parliamentary candidates.

Gove said he would abstain, saying parts of the report were “excellent” but he did not agree with its conclusion that Johnson should have been suspended from parliament for 90 days had he remained a lawmaker. He said he did not know what Sunak himself would do.

The ongoing Johnson saga and COVID “partygate” headlines will do little for Sunak’s attempts to focus on boosting Britain’s flagging economy, with homeowners facing large increases in mortgage repayments as the Bank of England hikes interest rates in a bid to curb stubbornly high inflation.

Asked if the government would step in to help borrowers, he said it had no immediate plans to intervene but was keeping the matter under review.

“The worst thing to do would be to spend money in order to provide a short-term relief, which would then mean that our overall finances were in a weaker position, and interest rates were higher for longer and inflation was high for longer,” Gove said.

    Source:
  • Reuters