LONDON - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted with a chorus of boos and jeers as he arrived at a Service of Thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth on Friday, in a public reflection of the growing pressure on his leadership.
Climbing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral towards leading members of the country's church and military, Johnson and his wife Carrie smiled and walked on as audible boos rang out from some among the thousands of royal fans lining the streets.
Others in the crowd then clapped and cheered.
Johnson has faced widespread calls from opposition politicians, and some in his own party, to resign over a "partygate" scandal that revealed both he and Downing Street officials broke stringent laws that his government made during the pandemic.
Keiran Pedley, a research director at pollster Ipsos, said the reaction was likely to be noticed by Johnson's lawmakers. "Whilst not surprising given Johnson's poll numbers this feels significant and should not be ignored," he wrote on Twitter.
Johnson swept to power in 2019 on a promise to complete Britain's exit from the European Union, winning over voters from across the political spectrum who were attracted to his irreverent and often chaotic style of governing.
But a cost of living crisis and revelations over his conduct during the pandemic have sent his personal popularity plummeting in opinion polls, and a growing number of lawmakers in his own party have called for Johnson to quit.
The hostile reaction on Friday, from a crowd hoping to see members of the royal family and celebrate a national occasion, may send alarm through Johnson's party, amid speculation that he might face a leadership challenge soon.
It had echoes of an occasion in 2012 when then-finance minister George Osborne was roundly booed by thousands of spectators at the Paralympic Games in London, a clip that was replayed throughout his career.
The Service of Thanksgiving was being held on the second day of the four-day Platinum Jubilee national celebration.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden, Christina Fincher and Hugh Lawson)