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Johnson apologises in Commons after admitting attending No 10 party during lockdown

The British Prime Minister acknowledged public anger about the situation.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologises in the Commons
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologises in the Commons
Image: House of Commons via PA Images

Updated Jan 12th 2022, 8:00 PM

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson faced calls to quit from senior Tories after he apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown.

Johnson insisted he believed it had been a “work event” and Downing Street said he had never been sent an email encouraging staff to bring a bottle and “make the most of the lovely weather”.

But in a sign of mounting Tory anger, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for him to quit while another MP branded the Prime Minister a “dead man walking”.

While a rebellion against Johnson mounts there are also signs of his ministers backing him – with one notable exception yet to express his support.

Senior Conservatives flooded broadcast studios and social media with praise for the PM following his admission he attended a “bring your own booze” party in No 10 in May 2020 and fears over Tory revolt rose.

And Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was the first out of the blocks to back her boss, saying an inquiry led by senior official Sue Gray must be allowed to go ahead.

Dorries wrote on Twitter that the “PM was right to personally apologise earlier.

“People are hurt and angry at what happened and he has taken full responsibility for that. The inquiry should now be allowed to its work and establish the full facts of what happened”.

Responding to her message, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove: “Nadine is right.”

And the former leadership hopeful also backed up the PM to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, where he is reported to have said Johnson “gets the big calls right” and urged colleagues not to be “flaky”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV it was a “daft question” when asked whether he would run again for the Tory leadership.

While Home Secretary Priti Patel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Health Secretary Sajid Javid offer their support. 

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told the media: “I think the Prime Minister has got things right again and again and again.

However Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had yet to publicly back Johnson this evening.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Johnson was right to apologise and called for patience as enquiry was being carried out. 

In the British parliament, Johnson said that he attended the 20 May 2020 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff” but “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside”.

Earlier Johnson has apologised over his attendance at a reported “bring your own booze”  gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown as he battles to save his premiership.

Johnson is currently making his first public appearance since the leak yesterday of an email from his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting Downing Street staff to the gathering in May 2020.

Speaking before the House of Commons, Johnson told MPs that he “wants to apologise”. 

He acknowledged the public “rage” over the incident but insisted he thought it could have been technically within the rules.

Johnson told MPs that he attended the 20 May 2020 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”.

“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said.

But “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside, I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that – even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.”

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Johnson acknowledged that included “people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside” adding: “To them and to this House, I offer my heartfelt apologies.”

He said that senior official Sue Gray should be allowed to complete her inquiry into a series of alleged parties held during lockdown in No 10 and Whitehall “so that the full facts can be established”.

Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited colleagues to “socially distanced drinks” on 20 May 2020 to “make the most of the lovely weather” – urging them to “bring your own booze”.

The Prime Minister acknowledged public anger: “I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

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“Though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on Johnson to resign, labelling it “ridiculous” that the Prime Minister suggested he “didn’t realise he was at a party”.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

“After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road,” Starmer said.

“His defence … that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public.”

He added: “The party’s over, Prime Minister. The only question is will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out or will he do the decent thing and resign?”

Conservation backlash 

Johnson has faced growing Tory anger over the situation and Cabinet minister Simon Hart acknowledged it was damaging the party and the running of government.

“There’s a lot of frustration and bafflement about all of this, and I completely understand,” the Welsh Secretary said.

“I’ve not met anybody who is not deeply, deeply conscious of the effect that this has on people’s attitudes to not just the political party … but the Government and the smooth running of the nation.”

With the public mood turning increasingly angry, two snap polls found a majority now believed Johnson should stand down as Prime Minister.

A Savanta ComRes study found 66% of British adults thought he should quit, with 24% saying he should stay while a YouGov survey for Sky News found 56% believed he should go, with 27% saying he should remain.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard has said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the latest allegation.

As a result, Gray’s investigation could be paused if evidence emerges of a criminal offence and the Metropolitan Police decide to launch an inquiry.

Includes reporting by Press Association

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