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LONDON: The British Conservative Party chairman rejected calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign but said he must address the culture within his government that resulted in multiple staff gatherings at his residence during coronavirus lockdowns.

Johnson has apologised for attending a gathering in the garden of his Downing Street residence in May 2020 where staff had been invited to bring their own alcohol at a time when strict rules forbade the public from almost all socialising.

Amid a public backlash at the perception that the government did not follow its own rules during the pandemic, an internal investigation is looking at that party and several others - including parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

“We need to find out the facts and then the Prime Minister needs to respond effectively and to address the culture in Downing Street,” Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Sunday.

The scandal has generated calls for Johnson to resign - including from within his own party - and seen the Conservatives fall far behind the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls. Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson of breaking the law, and of lying to parliament when first challenged about the reports of parties. He said the public could no longer take the prime minister seriously when it came to the pandemic response.

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