On the streets of Swindon in the south of England, one phrase could be heard repeatedly this week: “This is one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”
A sense of outrage flooded the country after revelations about Downing Street parties held during coronavirus lockout, even though Britons were asked to follow rules that forbade large social gatherings.
So far, only a handful of conservative MPs have has publicly called for Boris Johnson’s resignation since he admitted that he a “Bring your own drink” meeting in the Downing Street Garden in May 2020 during England’s first restriction.
But this weekend represents a troubling moment for the prime minister as Tory MPs return to their constituencies to gauge the national mood after his partial apology – Johnson said Wednesday in the prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons that he thinks the rally in May 2020 was a “job opportunity”.
Many conservatives were willing to wait for a threatening report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, in the parties and allegations of widespread Covid rule-breaking, but MPs are poised for a major setback by the public and Tory activists.
In Swindon, Conservative councilor Bazil Solomon has the latest news on two parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021 was “awful”.
“When the [Gray] report becomes available on what happened, those who significantly violated the Covid-19 rules. . . must reconsider their work, ”he added.
“[Johnson] will be replaced. . . at the end of the day you can only apologize so much. ”
Johnson proved his political leap over the years by winning the London mayoral election in 2008, the Brexit referendum in 2016 and the 2019 general election.
But in the midst of the “party holes” scandal he seems to be turning into an election liability, which makes many Tory MPs and activists nervous ahead of local elections in England on 5 May.
A poll by Savanta ComRes this week found that two-thirds of people thought the prime minister should resign, including 42 percent of those who voted conservatively in the 2019 election.
The executive members of the Sutton Coldfield Tory Association in the West Midlands unanimously voted on Thursday that they have no confidence in Johnson.
Simon Ward, Conservative leader of Sutton Coldfield City Council, said the government had asked people for two years to make “massive sacrifices” during the pandemic. “We have the right to expect from everyone in the government. . . to follow the same rules, ”he added.
Grassroots Conservatives, an influential group that previously supported Johnson, emailed supporters asking if they thought the prime minister should resign.
Swindon, where chief employers include the Nationwide Building Association, was once under the grip of the Labor Party, both at the local and national levels.
In recent years, however, the Tories have taken control of both Westminster constituencies – Swindon North and Swindon South, the latter held by former Cabinet minister Robert Buckland – as well as the local government, where they increased their majority to 15 seats last year. .
But local Tories are increasingly worried about the local elections in May and whether they will lose their seats due to party holes.
David Renard, Conservative leader of the Swindon Council, said it was a “fact” that the national situation was a public concern.
“But it’s too early to see what the impact will be when local elections are four months away,” he added. “I hope when people vote in these elections, they will think about what the party has done locally for them.”
However, Julia Bishop, a longtime Conservative councilor in Swindon, said local elections are often influenced by national events.
She cited the aftermath of the Falklands War in 1982, when 15 Tories were elected councilors in Swindon amid the popularity of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Bishop said she thinks Johnson “probably went too far this time” by breaking Covid rules and then making “stupid excuses” when he was caught out.
“He sometimes seems a stranger to the truth,” she added. “By[prime minister’s questions]. . . people laughed at the ridiculousness of his apologies. “
Part of Bishop’s anger is because her brother died in 2020 and the family could only hold a limited funeral due to Covid rules. “Millions of people have similar stories,” she said.
A local poll by the local newspaper, the Swindon Advertiser, found strong public disapproval of Johnson’s behavior this week: 79 percent of people wanted him to resign.
Rebecca Hollinshead, who works at the door at the Brass Monkey cocktail bar in Swindon’s old town, said she supported Johnson over Brexit, but now thought he was making a fool of Britain.
It was possible to find people in Swindon who thought party holes were a storm in a teacup. Rachel Irving, a retiree, said many people ignored lock-in rules, adding: “I will always vote Tory anyway.”
But she seemed to be in a small minority. In the Savoy bar in central Swindon, there was almost universal disapproval of the prime minister.
Steve McNally, a carpenter, said. “I would say 9 out of 10 people are angry with him at the moment.”
Colleen Mundy, a store assistant, said Johnson needed a “kick-up” to write the Covid rules and then ignore them. “People are angry because they lost loved ones and he drank with a large load of people in the garden,” she added.
Additional post by Miles Ellingham in London