Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was “deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning”, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk
Downing Street has apologised to Queen Elizabeth II for hosting two staff parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, when Covid-19 rules barred indoor socialising.
“It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and Number 10 has apologised to the Palace,” a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Friday.
The gatherings took place on April 16, 2021, and continued into the early hours, The Telegraph newspaper said in an exclusive report on Thursday night.
Johnson did not attend either party as he was not in Downing Street, where he both lives and works, on April 16, the spokesperson added.
The revelation came as reports about a string of lockdown-breaching gatherings organised by Downing Street officials over the past two years have enraged the British public and threatened Johnson’s premiership, Xinhua news agency reported.
On Wednesday, the UK Prime Minister apologised for attending a Downing Street garden party on May 20, 2020, during the country’s first lockdown. He said he believed it was a work event and stayed for only 25 minutes.
“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he told the lawmakers, adding that he went to the garden party with the aim of thanking groups of staff before going back into his office 25 minutes later.
“With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.”
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Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, slammed Johnson’s “ridiculous” apology, saying the Prime Minister’s excuse that he “did not realise he was at a party” was “offensive” to the British public.
Starmer urged Johnson to “do the decent thing and resign”.
In response, Johnson insisted that everyone should wait until the inquiry by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with investigating the reported party in Downing Street, has concluded before questioning further on the matter.
“I know the rage they (millions of people across Britain) 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.
“And 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,” he added.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after days of outrage after new evidence about the illicit gathering emerged.
On Monday, local media ITV revealed that Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had emailed an invitation to more than 100 Downing Street staffers to “socially distanced drinks in the No. 10 garden” and told guests to “bring your own booze” and “make the most of the lovely weather”.
This happened while the country was under strict coronavirus lockdown measures and such gatherings were illegal.
A snap poll from Savanta ComRes found that 66 per cent of British adults thought the Prime Minister should step down, representing a 12-point increase on a previous poll. Another poll conducted by YouGov showed that 56 per cent of respondents believe that Johnson should step down, up from 48 per cent in a similar survey on November 22, 2021.
Support from Johnson’s own Conservative Party is also waning as several members have been openly critical, with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross saying on Tuesday that Johnson must resign if he broke the lockdown rules with the garden party.
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