On the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, England was in severe lockdown mode due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was a time of national mourning. Yet, for some reason, Prime Minister Boris Johnson thought this was a good time to host a couple of ‘drinks parties’ also described as ‘leaving parties’ for a former government employee.
As Jazz wrote earlier this week, Johnson apologized to members of Parliament after an investigation into to scandal came to an end. At the time, there was a question as to whether or not he would officially apologize to Buckingham Palace for his actions. Today he did that. Members of Parliament continue to call for his resignation.
The timing of the parties was particularly awkward on the part of the prime minister because we all remember the heartbreakingly poignant photos of Queen Elizabeth sitting alone during the funeral of her beloved husband of 73 years because of lockdown restrictions. Johnson should have known better. The parties went well into the wee hours of the morning. Boris Johnson wasn’t even at either party, it is reported, but he was the host of them as they were held at 10 Downing Street. The PM’s spokesman said it was “deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning”. The photo used above is of the Queen at Prince Philip’s funeral.
Johnson’s judgment is under scrutiny for other decisions seen as disrespectful to his position. He is under pressure from all sides to resign.
The two staff get-togethers, on 16 April last year, took place at a time when Covid restrictions banned indoor socialising.
They have been added to the list of gatherings in government buildings being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
After the apology, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister.
“The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the prime minister should be offering the palace today.
“Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.”
BoJo didn’t man up and apologize himself to the Queen, he let his staff do it. He may have not been at either party himself, but the buck stops with him in the management of Number 10.
It is understood that the apology to the Palace was made by government officials.
Asked why No 10 had apologised rather than Boris Johnson himself, his spokesman told reporters: “Well, again, the prime minister said earlier misjudgements have been made and it’s right people apologise, as the PM did earlier this week.”
The spokesman says he could not prejudge Sue Gray’s inquiry, but added: “We acknowledge the significant public anger, it was regrettable this took place a time of national mourning.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on Mr Johnson to apologise personally to the Queen “for the offence he’s caused her and millions around the country mourning for loved ones”.
The long knives are out for Boris. A suitcase filled with bottles of wine is involved. The general public doesn’t appreciate the double standard exhibited by the prime minister and his staff. The rest of the country were separated from loved ones and friends, including those infected with COVID-19, during the lockdown.
The two parties last April involved around 30 people in total, and are reported to have converged at some point in the Downing Street garden, where they continued past midnight.
Downing Street staff were reportedly sent to a nearby shop with a suitcase, that was brought back “filled with bottles of wine”.
They were both leaving parties: one for the PM’s then director of communications, James Slack, and the other for one of the PM’s personal photographers.
Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, has apologised for the “anger and hurt” caused by the party, and acknowledged it “should not have happened at the time that it did”.
The parties at 10 Downing Street were held in the garden outside. Even that concession didn’t meet the restrictions of the lockdown, though. At the time of the parties, England was under Step Two restrictions. People couldn’t socialize indoors except with those from their household or ‘bubble’ but they could do so outdoors. However, the limit set for outdoor gatherings was set at up to six people or two households. There is no getting around that these parties were setting a poor example by a political leader. This isn’t the first time that events hosted at 10 Downing Street have come under scrutiny during the pandemic. There is a timeline of several other questionable events here and recaps of actions taken by Johnson to mitigate the pandemic. That timeline also includes questions of a holiday event hosted by the Conservative Party earlier in the pandemic.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross is calling for Johnson’s resignation. He led the majority of Tories at Holyrood in Scotland to do the same. His relationship with Johnson, whom he once supported, has turned sour. The secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, thinks it is possible that Johnson survives in office. He’s offered his support to Johnson and asked his Holyrood colleagues to reconsider their calls for resignation if the final investigation findings exonerate Johnson. That flies in the face of reality, though, since exoneration isn’t possible after Johnson admitted to attending a “bring your own booze” party during lockdown, besides these two parties for which he now apologizes to Buckingham Palace.
Ms. Gray is a senior civil servant with a reputation of ethical behavior The findings of her full investigation are due in a week or so. Her investigation is of social gatherings at 10 Downing Street but it is unclear how much power she has in censorship. She isn’t a police officer or the arbiter of the ministerial code of conduct either. In the meantime, the fighting between Scottish conservatives and the prime minister continues. Ross knows that Johnson is unpopular in Scotland and is capitalizing on that now.
The Daily Telegraph published an explosive report Thursday night that fully exposed the two parties in question for the first time. Ironically, unlike other drinks parties during lockdown for which Johnson finds himself under investigation, he wasn’t in attendance for these. And, the insult of the timing of the parties being just hours before Queen Elizabeth attended her husband’s funeral which was limited to a small amount of guests because of lockdown restrictions increases the anger from the public who were touched by the photos of her sitting all alone. Will the prime minister survive? We’ll know more after the final investigation report is completed.