PM Johnson apologises for lockdown party, says 'it was work event'
- UK PM Boris Johnson for the first time acknowledged that he went to the garden party
- The party was held at Downing Street when socialising was banned in the UK
- “I want to apologize. … With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," Johnson said
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for the first time, acknowleged attending a garden party when the country was in a COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Issuing an apology at the Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), the Conservative Party leader said that there are things his government “did not get right.”
Johnson is facing backlash, from the public and politicians, for allegedly flouting COVID-19 restrictions by socialising when it was banned.
“I want to apologize. … With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
"I know the anguish they have been through - unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules," he continued.
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.
The Prime Minister further added that he believes that the party was a work event. But acknowledeged that he ' should have sent everyone back inside'.
"When I went into that garden just after six on May 20, 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."
"I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies," the PM added.
Earlier in the PMQs, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson's statement was "the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road.
“His defence … 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?”
The scandal dubbed “partygate” has become the biggest crisis of Johnson’s two-and-a-half years in power. During the U.K.’s first lockdown, which began in March 2020 and lasted for more than two months, almost all gatherings were banned. Millions of people were cut off from friends and family, and even barred from visiting dying relatives in hospitals. Thousands were fined by police for breaking the ban on gatherings.
With inputs from the Associated Press