London, Jan 14 (PTI) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday faced mounting leadership pressure amid further allegations of parties held at his Downing Street office-residence by staff, categorised as a “partygate” scandal due to the apparent serial breaches of lockdown rules in place at the time.
‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported on two farewell parties made up of about 30 people drinking alcohol and dancing to music until the early hours of April 17 last year, the night before the funeral of Prince Philip – the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. Downing Street said the timing was “deeply regrettable” and that it had apologised to Buckingham Palace.
“It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and Number 10 has apologised to the Palace,” the UK Prime Minister’s spokesperson said.
“You heard from the prime minister this week, he’s recognised Number 10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for things we did not get right,” the spokesperson said.
It is understood that a call from the Prime Minister’s office was made to the Palace on Friday.
Restrictions at the time banned indoor mixing between different households and Queen Elizabeth II sat alone during the church ceremony for her late husband in keeping with social distancing rules.
“This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility,” said James Slack, the UK Prime Minister’s former Director of Communications, at the centre of the farewell that led to the party last April.
Slack, now deputy editor-in-chief at ‘The Sun’ newspaper, apologised “unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused”.
While Prime Minister Johnson was not at either of the two gatherings in April 2021 as he was spending the weekend at his Buckinghamshire country estate Chequers, the latest revelations add to the saga around rules being broken at the heart of the UK government.
Ministers have insisted that top civil servant Sue Gray’s ongoing internal investigation into such gatherings will determine the extent of wrongdoing and therefore judgment should be reserved until her probe concludes.
“If the details that are in this story turn out to be true, clearly people are going to form their judgment,” UK Security Minister Damian Hinds said on Thursday, with reference to the fresh revelations which call Boris Johnson’s leadership of his party and country into question.
“I am entirely behind the Prime Minister and the government, and I think the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown, particularly through the coronavirus, has been very strong,” said Hinds.
But battle lines are being drawn within the Conservative Party, with many of Johnson’s own MPs demanding he step down as leader.
“I want to apologise. I know that millions of people have made extraordinary sacrifices in the last 18 months. I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in No 10 rules are not being followed,” Johnson said in the House of Commons earlier this week with reference to a garden party in May 2020 that he had attended.
He said that he “believed implicitly” that it was a work-related event but regretted not breaking up the gathering and “sending everyone back inside”.
Johnson’s hopes now hang on the ongoing internal investigation exonerating him of wrongdoing, with talk around potential successors gaining ground.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak is seen as a frontrunner to take over as Prime Minister, with the Indian-origin Cabinet minister agreeing that his boss was “right to apologise”.
Meanwhile, the Opposition is keeping up the pressure on Johnson, demanding his resignation.
After Johnson apologised to the Palace, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister.
“The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the prime minister should be offering the palace today.
“Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.” Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey again demanded immediate resignation of Prime Minister Johnson.
“The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown. Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others. Whilst she mourned, Number 10 partied. Johnson must go,” said Davey.
The Labour Party’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner wrote on Twitter: I have no words for the culture & behaviours at number 10 and the buck stops with the PM.” PTI AK RUP AKJ RUP RUP
This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.