LONDON — Boris Johnson’s office on Friday apologized to the royal family for hosting staff parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year — the latest in a series of gatherings allegedly breaking the law. lockdown that threaten to overthrow the UK Prime Minister.
Farewell parties for Johnson’s outgoing spin doctor and another staff member, complete with late-night drinking and dancing, were held on April 16, 2021, the night before Queen Elizabeth II died. sits alone at her husband’s funeral due to social distancing rules in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, acknowledged news of the rallies caused “significant public anger”.
‘It is deeply regrettable that this has taken place at a time of national mourning and that Number 10 has apologized to the Palace,’ he said, using a term referring to the Prime Minister’s 10 Downing St. office. Minister.
Johnson’s former communications director, James Slack, has apologized for the “anger and hurt” caused by his farewell party.
“I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility,” added Slack, who left the government last year and is now deputy editor of tabloid The Sun.
Johnson’s office said the Prime Minister was not in Downing Street, where he lives and works, on April 16 and was unaware of any gatherings planned that day. But each new revelation about social happenings inside the prime minister’s office during the pandemic has weakened his grip on power.
Earlier this week, Johnson apologized for attending a Downing Street garden party in May 2020 when the UK was under a strict lockdown and the law prohibited people from meeting more someone outside their household. Millions of people 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 timing symbolism of the latest events that has appalled many in Britain. The Daily Telegraph, which broke the news, said Downing Street staff had been drinking, dancing and socializing late into the night, and at one point a worker was sent with a suitcase to a nearby supermarket to buy more alcohol. The following day, the widowed Queen sat alone in a church at Windsor Castle to say goodbye to her 73-year-old husband.
Photos of the monarch, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, have become a powerful image of the isolation and sacrifices endured by many during the pandemic.
Many conservatives fear the ‘partygate’ scandal could become a tipping point for a leader who has weathered a series of other storms over his spending and moral judgment.
The latest revelations will likely prompt more Tories to join their opponents in demanding that Johnson resign for flouting the rules the government has imposed on the rest of the country.
In a sign of growing anger within party ranks, the Conservative Association in the staunchly conservative borough of Sutton Coldfield in central England voted unanimously on Thursday night to withdraw its support for Johnson.
“Culture starts at the top, doesn’t it? said Simon Ward, a local Conservative councillor.
“We have asked people across the country to make massive sacrifices, people in rural Sutton Coldfield to make massive sacrifices, over the past two years. I think we have a right to expect that everyone in government and in these leadership positions follows these same rules and guidelines.”
Johnson said in his apology on Wednesday that he understood the public’s “rage” but refrained from admitting wrongdoing, saying he viewed the garden meeting as a work event to thank staff for its efforts during the pandemic.
Johnson urged people to await the findings of an investigation led by senior civil servant Sue Gray into several parties alleged to be breaking the rules by government staff during the pandemic. Gray, a respected official who has investigated past allegations of ministerial wrongdoing, is expected to report by the end of the month.
The government says Gray’s investigation is independent, but she is a public servant and Johnson is, ultimately, her boss. Gray could conclude that Johnson breached the code of conduct for government ministers, although she does not have the authority to fire him. Johnson did not say what he would do if she found out he was at fault.
Johnson does not have to face voter judgment before the next general election, scheduled for 2024. But his party could seek to oust him sooner if his colleagues believe he has become toxic.
Under Conservative rules, a vote of no confidence in the leader can be triggered if 54 party lawmakers – 15% of the total – write letters asking for it.
Roger Gale, a conservative lawmaker who has long been critical of Johnson, said he had already submitted a letter calling for a change in leadership.
“I think minds are now, over this weekend, focused on the need to take the necessary steps,” he said. “I clearly don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, how many of my colleagues have sent letters…but I believe there’s momentum building.”
Cabinet ministers are backing Johnson, at least for now.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – often cited as a potential successor to Johnson – said she understood “people’s anger and dismay” at the party’s revelations.
But she said “I think now we have to move on.”