Queen turned down No 10 offer to ease COVID rules for Philip’s funeral - report

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Queen Elizabeth II takes her seat during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10 June 1921, in Greece. He served in the British Royal Navy and fought in WWII. He married the then Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 and was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King VI. He served as Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II until his death on April 9 2021, months short of his 100th birthday. His funeral takes place today at Windsor Castle with only 30 guests invited due to Coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen sitting alone at Prinice Philip's funeral became a symbol of the loneliness of the pandemic. (Getty Images)

Downing Street has declined to comment on a report that No 10 contacted Buckingham Palace to offer to ease coronavirus restrictions for Prince Philip’s funeral.

According to Private Eye magazine, an offer was made to the palace to temporarily relax social distancing rules to allow more than 30 mourners to attend the ceremony following the Duke of Edinburgh's death on 9 April last year.

The Queen is said to have declined the offer on the grounds she sought to set a positive example to the public.

Read more: Boris Johnson was likely grabbed from office and taken to No 10 garden, minister says

At the time, England was under Step Two restrictions, which banned socialising indoors except with your household or bubble, with the "rule of six" applying to anyone meeting in outdoor spaces.

There was a 30-person limit on funerals, and domestic overnight stays outside your household or bubble were prohibited.

The significance of the report has been heightened amid reports a party was held in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral on 17 April.

Reports claim there was an impromptu DJ set, guests brought wine into the prime minister’s home in a suitcase, and even Johnson’s son’s swing was broken.

Larry the cat sits on the doorstep of the front door of number 10, Downing Street in central London on August 18, 2021. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
A string of parties in Number 10 during lockdown has left the Boris Johnson facing calls for his resignation from among his own MPs. (Getty Images)

No 10 has apologised to Buckingham Palace for the gathering during a time of national mourning, and claimed the event was a “leaving speech” for the prime minister’s then director of communications, James Slack.

Yahoo News UK has approached Buckingham Palace for comment, while Downing Street declined to make a statement.

Slack, who is now deputy editor at The Sun, issued an apology via the paper’s parent organisation.

”I wish to apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused," he said. "This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”

The prime minister appeared emotional on Tuesday when grilled on the party. Breathing heavily and appearing contrite, Johnson said: “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.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed the Johnson over the revelations.

Watch: Keir Starmer questions PM’s ‘ridiculous‘ defence over Downing Street ‘parties’

“Last year Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she’d been married to for 73 years, she followed the rules of the country that she leads,” he said.

“On the eve of that funeral, a suitcase was filled with booze and wheeled into Downing Street, a DJ played and staff partied late into the night.

“The prime minister has been forced to hand an apology to Her Majesty the Queen.

“Isn’t he ashamed that he didn’t hand in his resignation at the same time?”

The reports are one of the most. damning revelations to have occurred in the Partygate scandal that has left Johnson's premiership hanging by a thread.

Amid reports that the threshold of 54 MPs needed to force a vote of no-confidence in the PM could be reached within days, on Wednesday Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defected from the Tories to Labour.

To pile even more pressure on the PM, senior Conservative MP David Davis dramatically called for Johnson's resignation in the Chamber.

“I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that,” said Davis.

“So I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear, Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain: ‘You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.’”

Watch: 'In the name of God, go': Boris Johnson left fumbling after Tory MP's brutal put down

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