British PM Johnson apologizes for party during COVID-19 lockdown
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued an apology Wednesday for attending a party during the country's COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, but ignored the opposition's calls for his resignation, Daily Sabah reports citing AP.
Johnson is facing a tide of anger from the public and politicians over claims he and his staff flouted pandemic restrictions by socializing when it was banned. Some members of his Conservative Party have joined in the criticism, saying he must quit if he can’t quell the furor.
Johnson acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he went to a May 2020 garden party at his Downing Street office, though he said that he had considered it a work event to thank the staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I want to apologize. ... With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
Opponents and allies alike have been demanding Johnson come clean about the “bring your own booze” party, held when Britain was under a strict lockdown imposed by Johnson to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
An invitation to the “socially distanced drinks” gathering was emailed to about 100 people by a senior prime ministerial aide. At the time, people in Britain were barred by law from meeting more than one person outside their household.
Johnson’s lunchtime appearance at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons was his first public appearance since details of the party emerged.
The prime minister struck a tone of contrition but urged people to await the conclusions of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into several alleged parties by government staff.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson's statement was "the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road.
“His defense ... that he didn’t realize he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public,” Starmer said. “He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozing parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”
Johnson declined to resign, but said he understood the rage of people who “have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months.”
“I understand the anger, the rage that they feel at the thought that people in Downing Street were not following those rules,” Johnson said – though he didn't explicitly admit that he had broken any rules.
He said opponents should await “the full conclusion of the inquiry until the full facts are brought before this house.” Gray is due to report her findings by the end of the month.