Boris Johnson office apologizes for party

LONDON – Boris Johnson’s office on Friday apologized to the royal family for holding staff parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year – the latest in a series of alleged lockdown-busting gatherings that threaten to bring down the British prime minister. Minister.

Farewell parties were held for Johnson’s departing doctor and another staff member, with late-night drinking and dancing, on April 16, 2021, the night before Queen Elizabeth II sat alone at her husband’s funeral due to social distancing rules in place to slow movement. Corona virus spread.

Johnson’s spokesman, Jimmy Davis, acknowledged that news of the rallies had caused “significant public outrage”.

“It is very unfortunate that this happened at a time of national mourning and Number 10 has apologized to the palace,” he said, using the term for the 10th Downing Street prime minister’s office.

James Slack, Johnson’s former communications director, has apologized for the “anger and hurt” the farewell party had caused.

“I am deeply sorry, and I take full responsibility,” added Slack, who left government last year and is now deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun.

Johnson’s office said the prime minister was not in Downing Street, where he lives and works at the same time, on April 16, and was unaware of any rallies planned for that day. But every new revelation about social events inside the prime minister’s office during the pandemic has weakened his grip on power.

Earlier this week, Johnson apologized for going to a Downing Street garden party in May 2020, when the UK was under strict lockdown and people were prohibited by law from meeting more than one person outside their homes. Millions have been cut off from family and friends and even prevented from visiting dying relatives in hospitals.

Most indoor social gatherings were also banned in April 2021, and funerals were limited to 30 people. But it is the symbolism of the timing of recent events that has appalled many in Britain. The Daily Telegraph, which broke the news, said Downing Street employees were drinking, dancing and socializing late into the night, and that at one point an employee was sent with a suitcase to a nearby supermarket to buy more alcohol. The next day, the Queen Dowager sat alone in a chapel at Windsor Castle to say goodbye to her husband of 73 years.

Images of the king, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, have become a powerful portrait of the isolation and sacrifice that many have endured during the pandemic.

Many conservatives fear the “Party Door” scandal could become a turning point for a leader who weathered a series of storms over his spending and moral judgment.

The latest revelations are likely to prompt more Conservatives to join opponents in calling for Johnson to resign for violating rules the government has imposed on the rest of the country.

In a sign of growing anger in the party ranks, the Conservative Assembly in the powerful Tory district of Sutton Coldfield, central England, voted unanimously Thursday night to withdraw its support from Johnson.

“Culture starts at the top, right?” Simon Ward, a Conservative Alderman said.

“We have been asking people across our country to make huge sacrifices, from the people in the Sutton Coldfield countryside to make huge sacrifices, for the past two years. I think we have a right to expect everyone in government and in those leadership positions to follow those same rules and guidelines for those sacrifices.” like that “.

In his apology on Wednesday, Johnson said he understood the public “outrage”, but declined to acknowledge the error, saying he considered the park’s gathering a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Johnson urged people to wait for the results of an investigation by senior government employee Sue Gray into several alleged rules-breaking parties by government employees during the pandemic. Gray, a respected civil servant who investigated past allegations of ministerial wrongdoing, is expected to submit a report by the end of the month.

The government says Gray’s investigation is independent, but she is a civil servant and Johnson is ultimately her boss. Gray could conclude that Johnson violated the code of conduct for government ministers, even though she does not have the power to fire him. Johnson didn’t say what he would do if she found out he was wrong.

Johnson doesn’t have to face voter judgment until the next general election, scheduled for 2024. But his party may seek to oust him sooner if his colleagues think he’s getting fat.

Under Conservative rules, a vote of no-confidence can be held for a leader if 54 members of Congress — 15% of the total — write letters demanding it.

Roger Gill, a Tory lawmaker who has long been a critic of Johnson, said he had already sent a letter calling for a change of leadership.

“I think minds are now, over the weekend, focused on the need to take action,” he said. “Obviously I don’t know, and shouldn’t, how many of my colleagues have written letters, but I think there is some momentum building.”

Cabinet ministers are on Johnson’s side, at least for now.

Secretary of State Liz Truss – often referred to as a potential successor to Johnson – said she understood “people’s anger and resentment” at the party’s revelations.

But, she said, “I think now we need to move on.”

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