Chastened Boris Johnson apologises to Queen in humbling 'Partygate' interview

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Watch: Boris Johnson said he "bitterly regrets" two parties held the night before Prince Philip's funeral

Boris Johnson has apologised to the Queen after Downing Street staff held a party in Number 10 on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral.

It was reported last week that a leaving party for the prime minister's former communications secretary James Slack became so raucous that a swing belonging to the PM's son Wilf was broken, and staff used a suitcase to smuggle alcohol into the building.

Number 10 apologised to Buckingham Palace following the reports, but Johnson faced further questions on Tuesday in his first public appearance for almost a week.

Speaking on a visit to a north London hospital, Johnson appeared distressed and could be heard breathing heavily behind his mask as he told reporters: “I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened.

“I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgments that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.”

Read more: Boris Johnson's ex-COVID taskforce chief admits to another government lockdown party

Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to staff during a visit to the Finchley Memorial Hospital in North London Picture date: Tuesday January 18, 2022.
Boris Johnson has refused to rule out resigning as prime minister after admitting to attending a party in Downing Street during the first national lockdown (PA)

Johnson refused to rule out resigning as prime minister after admitting to attending a party in Downing Street during the first national lockdown.

Johnson has come under unprecedented pressure to quit the top job after issuing a grovelling apology for attending the "bring your own booze" event on May 20, 2020 - when the rest of the nation was under strict lockdown laws.

He has not been seen in public since last week, after a family member tested positive for COVID.

The claims of multiple parties being held in Downing Street are being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, whose report could be published next week.

Asked on whether he would resign if it finds he broke the rules, Johnson said: "Lets see what the report says."

Johnson also reiterated that he believed the gathering - which invited people to "bring their own booze" to "make the most of the lovely weather" - was a "work event".

General view of 10 Downing Street, in Westminster, London. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he owes his life to NHS staff treating him for coronavirus as his Government faced further criticism about the supply of protective equipment to frontline workers.
There has been a culture of breaking rules within Downing Street, it has been alleged (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Finchley Memorial Hospital in North London Picture date: Tuesday January 18, 2022.
Boris Johnson has laid low for the past week (PA)

Johnson was accused by Dominic Cummings of lying to parliament over whether he knew the gathering was against the rules, and claimed the PM was warned in advance that staff were holding a drinks party in breach of COVID laws.

But Johnson denied those allegations, telling broadcasters that "nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules".

He said: “I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.

“Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that … was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.”

Review of the Year 2021. File photo dated 23/06/21 of Queen Elizabeth II greeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Queen's first in-person weekly audience at Buckingham Palace, London with the Prime Minister since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Issue date: Tuesday December 21, 2021.
Johnson meeting the Queen in June 2021 (PA)

Asked if he could survive the row over the alleged parties, Boris Johnson said: “I understand people’s feelings and I understand why people feel as strongly as they do about this issue.

“I repeat my apologies for what happened. I’m heartily, heartily sorry for misjudgments that were made in No 10.

“What I do need to do is wait for the conclusion of the inquiry but, before then, to keep going with what we’re doing.”

Since disappearing from public view, the anger over his admission has only grown with the emergence of fresh claims of parties within Downing Street while rules banning social gatherings were in place.

Watch: Operation Red Meat - How Boris Johnson plans to save his premiership

The PM’s former chief adviser said he would “swear under oath” Johnson was lying when he told MPs he had not known in advance about the event.

Downing Street has denied the allegations.

So far Johnson has resisted calls to resign as prime minister, although there is growing fury within the Tory party.

It has also been reported regular “wine time Friday” gatherings were held in Downing Street, and that a special fridge was wheeled in to help staff enjoy them.

Labour have called for him to resign, and a number of senior Tory members - including Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross - have echoed their sentiments.

Speaking in the aftermath of Johnson's appearance, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson clearly knows it’s the end of the road.

"He’s the prime minister, he set the rules, he didn’t need anyone to tell him that the party he attended broke them.

"If he had any respect for the British public, he would do the decent thing and resign."

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