This month’s Debate & Reason This month we will be talking about: “Boris Johnson and the Sue Gray report”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in the news because he and members of his cabinet (higher-tier politicians in his administration) were caught attending parties during a 2021 Covid-19 lockdown when the law banned people from gathering in medium to large groups and any ‘unnecessary social contact’.
What is your opinion? Complete the comprehension exercises and then join in the debate!
In the "Debate & Reason" exercises, we read text based on real-world situations and answer comprehension questions. The text material is taken from podcasts, tv, articles, websites etc.
Then, in the comments section, we share opinions related to the text. We're trying to learn as much English language as we can, so it is good to share as many different opinions as possible (even if it isn't your own personal opinion).
Over the coming days and weeks, the teacher will post a variety of corrected examples of student work, along with some extra comments. These examples will be posted at the end of the main lesson.
Click on the numbers to quickly go to excerpts 1, 2 or 3. Or click on "Debate" to go straight to the debate section.
(1) Please read the following and answer the comprehension questions below
In the news recently, it has been reported that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was embroiled in a scandal: numerous parties took place at 10 Downing Street in the past two years whilst the country was on lockdown, thus breaking the very laws and restrictions that he placed upon the country. Sue Gray was investigating these happenings but now the police are investigating further. We are told there were 16 parties. Mr Johnson has since apologised in parliament.
Seeing as there were 16 parties, we can assume it is not an innocent mistake. 3 of them were attended by Mr Johnson himself, including one of them at his own flat. Other attendees are said to be high-ranking members of the Conservative party.
Although Prime Minister Johnson apologised, the Labour leader (leader of the opposition), Keir Starmer, wasn’t satisfied. He said: “The Prime Minister routinely broke the rules he set and took us all for fools. He held people’s sacrifice in contempt; he showed himself unfit for office.”
(2) Please read the following and answer the comprehension questions below
Other MPs were ‘queueing up to give their opinion’. Some offered their support, many were furious. Some of Mr Johnson’s own MPs asked him the following questions in open parliament:
Aaron Bell, the MP for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, who attended his grandmother’s funeral in March 2020 when the country was in lockdown, had this to say: “Only 10 people at the funeral, many couldn’t be there and had to watch online. I didn’t hug my siblings, I didn’t hug my parents. I gave a eulogy and then afterwards I didn’t even go to her house for a cup of tea. I drove back, 3 hours, from Kent to Staffordshire. Does the Prime Minister think I’m a fool?”
Former Prime Minister Theresa May: “What the [Sue] Gray report does show, is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public. So either my Right Honourable friend had not read the rules, or didn’t understand what they meant – and others around him – or they didn’t think the rules apply to number 10. Which was it?
Senior Backbencher Andrew Mitchell: “When he kindly invited me to see him 10 days ago, I told him that he should think very carefully about what was now in the best interests of our country and of the Conservative Party. And I have to tell him, he no longer enjoys my support.
* Number 10 Downing Street is the official residence and executive office of the Prime Minister of the UK.
(3) Please read the following and answer the comprehension questions below
Mr Johnson responded in the commons in quite an aggressive manner. Some Tory MPs don’t think he got the tone right. Attacking the Labour Party, showing little contrition beyond saying ‘sorry’. There are 2 years before a General Election, so no-one is going to vote Boris Johnson out of power right now but what can happen is, if enough of his own MPs decide they don’t want him to be leader anymore, they are the ones that can pull the trigger.
With regards the tone of the exchange, Boris Johnson noted Keir Starmer’s failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile – a well-known BBC celebrity in the 70s and 80s who was discovered to be a serial sex offender to women and children, much to the horror of most of the country.
Mr Johnson said this: “This leader of the Opposition, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, he spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Saville, as far as I can make out, Mr Speaker. He, Mr Speaker, chose to use this moment to continually pre-judge a police enquiry.”
This turns out not to be true or, at least, there is not evidence of it. It was a lawyer beneath Mr Starmer, not he, that made the erroneous call. It’s a tactic to get people to talk about something else. Make an outrageous claim about your opponent that isn’t true, which then gets everyone talking about them instead of you.
If 54 letters are written by Tory MPs (15% of the party) saying they no longer have confidence in his leadership, then a vote of no confidence will be held. If more than 50% write letters (180 letters) then he will be ousted from his position automatically.
This is quite a difficult thing to do, and they are not there yet. They are waiting to see what happens with a police investigation. The person investigating, Sue Gray, has found evidence that 12 of the different parties [gatherings] broke the bounds of the law. This is in the hands of Scotland Yard. The MPs are also waiting for the outcome of the local elections in May to see if the anger against the Prime Minister translates into actual votes of the public.
It's good to try and express different opinions. It helps you understand the subject better and how to make your views clearer.
Below is an argument chosen at random for you to try. Though you can share any opinion you want.
Your randomly chosen argument:
"Yes! Mr Johnson really should have the support of the country."
"No! Mr Johnson really shouldn't have the support of the country."
"Yes, Mr Johnson should still have the support of the country, but only if the following things happen..."
Now give your opinion in the comments section below.
When students have submitted work, the teacher will choose examples to show here along with corrections and suggestions.
At the moment, this lesson is 'live'. It is open for students to post work, comments and corrections.
In the coming days and weeks, the teacher will add corrections and suggestions based on a variety of student work taken from the comments sections.
(Click on "The Debate so far..." above for corrected examples, and see the comment section below for all student additions.)
In due time, the lesson will be "closed" and no more comments will be possible.
So please contribute and keep coming back to see updates!