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How 'Garden Party Leak' Adds to Growing Pile of Scandals Surrounding BoJo

© AFP 2022 / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVASBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (R) leave 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in London on October 13, 2020 held at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (R) leave 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in London on October 13, 2020 held at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
A photograph, depicting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his then-fiancee Carrie, and 17 other staff members in the Downing Street garden enjoying wine and cheese presumably amid the lockdown has added to the mounting tide of scandals involving the PM. British academic and author Rodney Atkinson has weighed up BoJo's odds of staying afloat.
The bombshell photo featuring a No 10 staff gathering with wine, spirits, and cheese was released by The Guardian on 19 December. According to the news website, the picture was taken on Friday, 15 May 2020, amid the COVID lockdown. On that very day then-Health Secretary Hancock instructed Britons that they could meet just one other person from outside their household at a social distance of two metres.
The photograph was shared with The Guardian after No 10 publicly rejected assumptions that its staff held a social gathering on 15 May 2020. The prime minister's spokesman said Johnson's cabinet members were working in the garden in the afternoon and evening.
Open House London 2013 HM Treasury - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.12.2021
Reports Suggest Downing Street 'Garden Party' Photo Could Have Been Leaked by UK Treasury

Who Leaked the Garden Pic?

The Telegraph alleged on 20 December that the image of the garden gathering was supposedly taken from a first floor veranda at the back of No 11, where Chancellor Rishi Sunak's offices are located. However, the Treasury vehemently denied the assumption, adding "that room is accessible to anyone working in Downing Street".
"It would not surprise me if the photo was leaked by a Treasury employee - they are next door and have a good view of the garden", says British academic, author, and economic commentator Rodney Atkinson, adding that there are "great tensions" between the Treasury and the prime minister.
According to the academic, the PM "cannot stop spending billions whenever he opens his mouth" and the Treasury is concerned about the growing national debt, which has soared to £2.3 trillion ($3.06 trillion) and continues to rise.

"This No 10 is economically illiterate and financially dangerous", says Atkinson. "Sunak is not a strong chancellor but even he realises what an economic liability Johnson is. But he owes his position to Johnson and the fact that the previous chancellor was forced to resign".

Still, there have been leaks indicating serious disagreements between Sunak and Johnson over lockdowns and economic measures. Atkinson points out that Johnson and different health secretaries "have refused to balance advice from the medical SAGE Committee with the economic consequences of COVID controls and lockdowns for business and the economy in general". According to the economic commentator, the Treasury and the Business Department "are rightly angry about this".
Nevertheless, the academic does not believe that Sunak "would be directly or indirectly associated with the photograph leak" even though the current chancellor has ambitions and is largely seen as a possible successor to Johnson.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street 10 to meet with Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, in London, Britain December 16, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.12.2021
Photo: Bojo & Co Were Chilling in Downing St. Garden When Brits Were Supposed to Be in 1st Lockdown

'There's Real Anger at Johnson Across Political Spectrum'

The leak of the Downing Street party comes on the heels of a series of blunders by the UK prime minister, a Tory rebellion against BoJo's new COVID rules, and a resounding defeat of the Conservative Party in a December by-election in a traditional stronghold, North Shropshire.
Earlier this month, Downing Street staff was also accused of holding a Christmas party on 18 December 2020, in apparent defiance of lockdown rules. According to the BBC, a series of other reports alleges that members of Johnson's government held meetings in violation of their own COVID rules on multiple occasions.
Atkinson does not rule out that the leaks are connected to the ongoing infighting within the Conservative Party.
Yet, it is not just a party matter, according to him: "There is real anger across the political spectrum about politicians, civil servants, and the medical professions controlling the people with rules and laws and then doing the opposite themselves".

"Even the civil servant appointed to investigate lockdown law breaking by Johnson, his party, and the civil service had to resign because his own office held a party against the rules", says the economic commentator. "Businesses and individuals in the market sector are well aware of the fact that those who closed them down still have their salaries and pension rights while their finances have been destroyed".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference for the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) update in the Downing Street briefing room, in London, Britain December 8, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.12.2021
The More BoJo Runs Into Trouble, the Better the Odds Are For Labour in Next Election, Academic Says

'Even BoJo Knows That His Party Won't Win With Him as Leader'

The mounting tide of scandals is affecting Boris Johnson's already weak position, especially given that the PM has no "natural constituency" in the parliamentary party, according to Atkinson.

"[Johnson] has been anti-Conservative in his social policies and statist in his economic policies", the academic says. "He has boasted of his libertarian tendencies but he has been dictatorial in lockdowns and the suppression of business and family life but libertarian only in his dealings with fake asylum seekers. He has alienated the socially conservative, the classical liberals, and the EU fanatics. He is seen as a policy opportunist without principles".

According to Atkinson, Johnson has no illusions with regard to his party's chances of winning the next general election if he remains the Tory leader.
Having alienated politicians of all stripes BoJo has also estranged his supporters among new entrepreneurs and family businesses by destroying them through his lockdown measures, the author notes. This leaves the PM with little if any chances of coming out on top, according to the academic.
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