British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign after he apologized on Wednesday, January 12 for attending an alcohol-fueled garden party at 10 Downing Street at the height of the country’s first pandemic lockdown.
The admission by the UK leader has sparked fierce public backlash as many people couldn’t leave their homes that period, or even see loved ones or family members as the UK observed strict covid-19 protocols.
At the start of weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, Johnson admitted to attending a gathering in Downing Street’s garden on May 20, 2020. He said;
“Mr Speaker, I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish that they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or do the things they love. And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead, when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility. Number 10 is a big department with the garden as an extension of the office – which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. And when I went into that garden just after six on the 20th of May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
“But, Mr Speaker, with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside, I should have found some other way to thank them and I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way. People who suffered terribly – people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside. And to them and to this house I offer my heartfelt apologies. And all I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.”
Following the apology, leader of the opposition Keir Starmer said Johnson was “a man without shame” and called his excuse that he didn’t know the gathering was a party “so ridiculous that it is offensive to the British public.”
Starmer, alongside other members of his Labour party, called on the prime minister to resign, as did leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey.
“The party is over, prime minister,” Starmer said, calling Johnson a “pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road.”
The Labour leader noted that when the former health secretary broke the rules, he resigned, and when the prime minister’s spokesperson laughed about the rule breaking, they also resigned. “Why does the prime minister still think that the rules don’t apply to him?”
There is also a problem within Johnson’s own party too.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, said Johnson could not stay on as prime minister if it transpired he attended the lockdown party.
The revelation comes alongside a string of separate scandals for Johnson involving the government’s handling of the pandemic, the awarding of valuable contracts and the refurbishment of Johnson’s flat.
Johnson has previously claimed he “broke no rules” attending the events during lockdown and had refused to comment on the matter until an internal investigation into the parties had finished on Wednesday January 12.