Boris Johnson has apologized for attending a «bring your own drink» meeting in No 10 Downing Street park during England’s first lockdown as he struggled to save his premiership.
The British prime minister admitted public «outrage» over the incident but insisted he believed it was technically possible to be within the rules.
His apology drew the contempt of relatives of people who died during the Covid pandemic.
Johnson told MPs he attended the 25-minute May 20, 2020 meeting «to thank staff groups».
«I tacitly thought this was a work event,» he said.
But «in hindsight, I should have gotten everyone inside, I should have found another way to thank them, and I should have realized that – even if it could technically be said to fall within the guidance – there would be millions and millions of people who simply wouldn’t see It’s this way.»
That includes «people who have suffered terribly, people who have been prevented from ever seeing their loved ones at home or abroad,» Johnson admitted, adding: «To them and to this home, I offer my most heartfelt apologies.»
He said Senior Official Sue Gray should be allowed to complete her investigation into a series of alleged parties held during lockdown at No 10 and Whitehall «until the full facts can be established».
Johnson’s chief private secretary, Martin Reynolds, called on colleagues for «socially distancing drinks» on May 20, 2020 «to make the most of the nice weather» – and urged them to «bring your own alcoholic drinks.»
The Prime Minister admitted the public outrage: «I know the outrage they feel with me and the government I lead when they think of Downing Street itself, the rules are not being followed properly by the people who make the rules.
«Although I cannot predict the results of the current investigation, I have learned enough to know that there are things that simply haven’t been corrected and I must take responsibility.»
Johnson faced growing Conservative Party anger over the situation and Cabinet Secretary Simon Hart admitted it was hurting the party and the government’s administration.
«There is a lot of frustration and confusion about all of this, and I totally understand,» said the Wales minister.
«I have not met anyone who does not have a deep and profound awareness of the impact that this has on people’s attitudes to not only the political party…but the government and the good governance of the nation.»
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the prime minister to resign.
«After months of deceit and deceit, the pathetic spectacle of a man ran out of the way,» said Sir Kerr.
«His defense…that he didn’t realize he was at a party so ridiculous that it was actually offensive to the British public.»
He added: «The party is over, Prime Minister. The only question is will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or will he do the right thing and resign?»
The embattled prime minister also faced calls to resign from the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, who said that «if he has no shame, members of the Conservative Party should act to remove him».
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davy said: «Will the Prime Minister accept, for the good of the country, that the party is finished and decide to resign?»
Labour’s Chris Bryant, chair of the Commons Standards Committee, questioned the prime minister’s excuse that he «didn’t notice he was at a social event», adding: «How stupid does the prime minister think the British people are?»
The House of Commons room was packed in anticipation of Mr Johnson’s response to the leaked email about the May 20, 2020 event – although Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is seen as a potential successor as leader of the Conservative Party, was notably absent from a visit to Devon.
Dominic Cummings, a former aide to Johnson who is now a prominent critic of the prime minister, said the claim that the event was «technically within the rules» is «nonsense».
But he said Johnson’s only alternative was to admit he broke the rules and resign.
In a sign of the public clamor for answers from the Prime Minister, this morning he was taken on ITV live to the House of Commons to hear his apology.
Johnson was accused of «taking the British public as fools» and pouring salt on people’s wounds after apologizing.
The prime minister’s activists have described the prime minister as a «public health danger», saying he had broken the rules and should resign.
Hannah Brady, of Covid-19 for Bereaved Families for Justice, said that if Mr Johnson did not step down, his deputies would have a «moral duty» to fire him.
Brady’s father, Sean Brady, 55, died just days before the «Bring Your Own Drinks» event on May 20, 2020, after contracting Covid on his way to his job as a head worker at Wigan.
His death certificate was signed on the day it was held.
But, speaking for the campaign group, Ms Brady dismissed his explanation.
She said: ‘The prime minister’s lies have finally caught him. Not only did he kick bereaved families like mine in the teeth by breaking the rules he set and then lying to us about them, he now takes British public opinion as fools by pretending he didn’t know it was a party.’
“Every time he lies to us, he pours more salt into the wounds of those who have already lost so much to this pandemic, but that doesn’t stop him.
“He is unable to tell the truth and he needs to go.
«The Prime Minister is now a mobile public health hazard who has lost the public’s trust, respect and goodwill.
“If restrictions are needed to protect lives in the future, people will simply laugh at it.
“He has no moral authority and will cost lives.
“He broke his own rules and if he had any decency he would resign now, rather than hide behind an internal ‘inquiry’.
«If he doesn’t, his deputies should impeach him. They have a moral duty to do so.»
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