- The Prime Minister’s Office has apologized to the Queen for a party in Downing Street which took place during the lockdown and the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
- Johnson is under increasing pressure from some of his own lawmakers to step down.
- The beleaguered prime minister also issued an apology in parliament.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office apologized to Queen Elizabeth on Friday after it emerged staff partied late into the night in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, at one time where indoor mixing was prohibited.
Johnson is facing the most serious crisis in his premiership after almost daily revelations of a series of social gatherings during the Covid-19 shutdowns, some held when ordinary people could not say goodbye in person to dying parents.
After building a political career by flouting accepted norms, Johnson is now under increasing pressure from some of his own lawmakers to step down. Opponents say he is unfit to govern and has misled Parliament by denying that Covid-19 guidelines have been breached.
In an extraordinary twist on a saga that has been widely ridiculed by comedians and cartoonists, the Daily Telegraph said cocktail parties were held in Downing Street on April 16, 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.
“It is deeply regrettable that this has come at a time of national mourning and that Number 10 (Downing Street) has made an apology to the Palace,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.
Johnson was at his Checkers country residence that day and was not invited to any rallies, his spokesman said.
Such was the party in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, as staff went to a nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on rugs and a swing used by the Prime Minister’s young son was broken.
The following day, Queen Elizabeth said goodbye to Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, following his death at the age of 99.
Dressed in black and a white-trimmed black mask, Elizabeth, 95, cut a poignant figure as she sat alone, in strict compliance with coronavirus rules, at Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle .
“Leaving the Stage”
Opponents have called on Johnson, 57, to quit, portraying him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his own staff partied in the heart of the British state.
A small but growing number in his own Conservative party have echoed those calls, fearing it could permanently damage his electoral prospects.
“Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable,” said Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen, a former Johnson supporter. “The time has come to leave the stage.”
Johnson gave a variety of explanations for the parties, ranging from denial that any rules were broken to expressing his understanding of the public’s anger at the apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.
READ | Staff No 10 flaunted Covid lockdown rules with parties ahead of Prince Phillip’s funeral, reports
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, seen as a possible successor, said “real mistakes” had been made.
“We have to look at the overall position that we find ourselves in as a country, the fact that he (Johnson) delivered Brexit, that we are recovering from Covid… He apologized.”
“I think now we have to move on.”
To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs must write letters of censure to the chairman of the party’s “1922 Committee”.
The Telegraph said no less than 30 such letters had been submitted.
Johnson faces a tough year ahead: Beyond Covid, inflation is soaring, energy bills are skyrocketing, taxes will rise in April and his party faces local elections in May.
One of the April 2021 parties was a going away event for James Slack, a former Downing Street communications director, who apologized on Friday “for the anger and hurt caused”.
Slack, now deputy editor of the Sun tabloid, said in a statement to PA Media that the rally “shouldn’t have happened when it happened.”
British police said on Thursday they would not investigate gatherings held at Johnson’s residence during a coronavirus lockdown unless an internal government investigation finds evidence of potential criminal offences.
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