UK Prime Minister’s wife Carrie apologises amid ‘partygate’ scandal
London, Jan 17 (PTI) Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, was on Monday forced to apologise for "momentary lapse" over COVID-19 lockdown rules during a friend’s party in 2020, even as the so-called “partygate” scandal continues to pile pressure on her husband’s leadership prospects.
The 33-year-old mother of Johnson’s one-year-old son Wilfred and one-month-old daughter Romy was pictured hugging her friend during an engagement party at a private members’ club in London in September 2020.
The social distancing rules in force at the time called for staying two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or one metre if meeting outdoors.
“Mrs Johnson was one of a group of six seated outside, celebrating a friend’s engagement,” a spokesperson for Carrie Johnson said, with reference to the photograph that emerged in The Sunday Telegraph.
“Mrs Johnson regrets the momentary lapse in judgment in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph,” the spokesperson said.
It is the latest in a string of revelations in the past few weeks that exposed gatherings at Downing Street in apparent breach of lockdown rules.
Some of these were attended by Johnson, who issued a formal apology in the House of Commons last week for “things we simply did not get right”.
It has triggered calls from the Opposition and a growing number of members within his own Conservative Party for him to step down as leader.
Johnson's supporters have dismissed such demands and called for patience until a senior civil servant concludes an internal investigation into such gatherings held in Downing Street and across other government departments during lockdown.
UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi defended his boss to say "he's human and we make mistakes" as he insisted that Johnson's position as Prime Minister is not under threat.
"He came to the despatch box and apologised and said he will absolutely submit himself to Parliament, because that's our parliamentary democracy," Zahawi told the BBC.
Meanwhile, The Daily Mirror reports on yet another party that Johnson allegedly attended – a farewell before Christmas 2020 to mark the departure of a defence adviser.
Downing Street is yet to comment on this gathering, where the Prime Minister is said to have given a speech.
Meanwhile, UK media reports claim that those around Johnson have triggered "Operation Save Big Dog", which could include an overhaul of his top team following criticisms of a boozy culture within Downing Street.
There are also reports of a so-called "Operation Red Meat", which will involve a series of populist meaty announcements as an appeasement of the Conservative Party base and backbench MPs angered by the “partygate” allegations.
A hit on the BBC’s funding formula through taxpayer-backed licence fee and using Royal Navy vessels to enforce migration rules in the English Channel are among the measures expected within this operation.
"None of these issues are things that we have not been seeking to address for some time. [The government is] continuing to deliver on those policy priorities," Johnson’s spokesperson said, dismissing reports of operations in process to save his premiership.
For a leadership contest to be triggered, 54 letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister have to be submitted by Tory MPs to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee, asking for a vote on the Conservative leader's future.
Brady does not publicly reveal how many letters he has received, but reports suggest about 20 might have been handed in.
However, at present, there also seems to be quite a passionate defence of Johnson’s leadership at work as all eyes are fixed on civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry, expected to conclude soon.