Poll shows 78% believe Boris must quit after breaking Covid rules by attending Downing Street Party
More than three-quarters of people in Northern Ireland think Boris Johnson should resign after he admitted attending a drinks party during lockdown, a poll reveals.
The Prime Minister is under mounting pressure following a series of claims of parties at Downing Street.
Cabinet members including deputy PM Dominic Raab have rallied round Mr Johnson amid growing calls for him to quit.
And a LucidTalk poll for the Belfast Telegraph shows most people here also think he should go.
It found 78% of people want Mr Johnson to resign, with just 17% — around one in six — saying no, and the rest unsure.
Among those designating themselves as nationalist and republican, opinion is even more stark — 96% believe Mr Johnson should resign, with just 2% disagreeing.
Meanwhile, just under two-thirds (63%) of unionist voters think he should go, with 29% not in favour of resignation, and 8% unsure.
Of those designating themselves as Alliance, Green or other, 93% believe the PM should quit, with 6% disagreeing.
Mr Johnson has apologised for the way he handled the “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020 and said he understood the public’s “rage” over it.
A leaked email from Martin Reynolds — a key aide to Mr Johnson — invited staff to “make the most of the lovely weather” with “some socially distanced drinks”. At the time mixing with multiple households was still banned.
Mr Johnson admitted that he had joined colleagues at the event for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff” for their hard work during the pandemic, but had “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.
A series of other gatherings are alleged to have taken place in Downing Street during 2020, including two held on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, although Mr Johnson was not present. Another involves a Christmas bash at Downing Street on December 18, 2020, when London was in tier 3 restrictions, banning social events.
The gatherings are being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, a former top Stormont official, who is expected to report this week.
However, officials working in No 10 claim they have held back information due to a “culture of fear” surrounding the probe.
Three sources told The Independent they have not divulged messages and pictures on their phones after a senior member of staff told them to remove anything that could fuel speculation in the wake of the first party revelations.
Messages in a WhatsApp group were said to contain photographs of people drinking and dancing, as well as references to how hungover people were the next day.
The messages are from the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when there were two parties, one to mark the departure of a No 10 photographer and another to mark the departure of James Slack, Downing Street’s director of communications. Mr Slack has since made a public apology.
One source claimed that after being asked to remove information, they subsequently deleted evidence of that party.
They said they were also fearful that, having removed material, they could face censure: “I did the wrong thing and actually deleted stuff.”
“Everyone’s terrified,” another source said. “There’s been a culture of fear [in the office] every day since the first party story broke.”
Another source added: “I’ve held back from sharing evidence … And I’d have to explain why I’d deleted some stuff, which would mean saying I’d felt intimidated.”
A Number 10 spokesperson said allegations about pressure on individuals were “categorically untrue” and staff have been instructed to comply fully with the inquiry.
On Sunday Mr Raab has said Tory MPs are rallying behind Mr Johnson ahead of the report’s publication.
He added: “If you know Sue Gray — and I have known her for several years now — she has worked under successive prime ministers, I don’t think you could have anyone who is more confident and dutiful in speaking truth to power.”