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19
April
2022

Boris Johnson to face angry lawmakers for the first time since being fined for breaching his own coronavirus laws

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face angry lawmakers on Tuesday for the first time since being fined for breaching his own coronavirus laws by attending a party at his Downing Street office.

The embattled Johnson last week became the first British leader to be publicly fined for breaking the law, after police ruled he had failed to abide by lockdown curbs in 2020.

But as parliament resumes after a break for Easter, the prime minister will also outline his actions in support of Ukraine against Russia.

The conflation of issues led to charges that Johnson is seeking to bury the “partygate” fines – which have also embroiled his finance minister and wife.

But while he defiantly resists opposition calls to resign, the prime minister is expected to adopt a tone of contrition when he addresses the House of Commons from around 1530 GMT.

“He fully respects the outcome of the (police) investigation,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

“Many will feel he fell short and the public had a right to expect better.”

Johnson could yet further fines over the parties, and MPs will hold a special debate on Thursday into whether he misled the Commons. However, he will be on an official visit to India by then.

Knowingly misleading parliament is a breach of government ministers’ code of conduct, which states they should resign as a result – and opposition lawmakers are adamant he should go.

‘Liar’

One national survey suggested around two-thirds of the public spoke negatively about Johnson, compared to just 16 percent positively, with the word “liar” the most commonly shared response.

“Overall, ‘partygate’ dominates views of Boris over Ukraine,” said James Johnson, a Conservative pollster who conducted the sample.

“Fury has not receded. Many negative comments are by people who liked him previously but have now changed their minds.”

Voters will get their chance to deliver a verdict on May 5, when the UK holds nationwide elections for local and city councils.

A drubbing for the Conservatives then could sharpen the debate among his own MPs, some of whom have said that now is not the time to change leader given the war in Ukraine.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer told ITV: “He is using that (Ukraine), really, as a shield and I think that’s pretty offensive.”

He added: “For millions of people, complying with the (Covid) rules really, really hurt. This is why it has gone so deep – we’ve all heard of terrible cases of funerals that people couldn’t attend.”

There is cross-party support towards Britain’s backing for Ukraine, and any Conservative successor would continue Johnson’s war policy, Starmer said.

Simon Wolfson, a justice minister, has already resigned from the government, citing “the scale, context and nature” of the rule breaches.

But Johnson will bid to shore up his standing with backbenchers when he addresses a meeting of the Conservative parliamentary party on Tuesday evening.

Attention divertedLondon’s Metropolitan Police is investigating dozens of alleged lockdown breaches by Johnson and his staff in the Downing Street complex where he lives and works.

It said last week officers had so far issued more than 50 fines.

The scandal, the latest in a stream of controversies to hit Johnson since last year, left his position hanging by a thread and MPs from his Conservative Party in a rebellious mood.

But he boosted his survival chances with what is seen as a firm response to Ukraine, which diverted attention away from the furore when he was most vulnerable in February.

Britain’s cost-of-living crisis is also credited with distracting people from the scandal, while Johnson has made several big policy announcements aimed at his pro-Brexit political base.

They include controversial plans to send migrants and asylum seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis defended Johnson, telling Sky News that “at every point he has been clear with what he believes to be the truth”.

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