British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered a groveling apology to the nation after he was caught out for attending a boozy garden party in the backyard of 10 Downing Street at the height of the coronavirus lockdown.
The gathering in May 2020—when people in Britain were banned from meeting more than one other person outside—was only exposed this week when ITV News obtained an invite sent out to 100 people urging them to head out to the sunny garden and “bring your own booze!”
After two days of festering public anger, Johnson was forced to admit he was one of the dozens of people who attended the garden party. He apologized at the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday afternoon—but provoked howls of derision after claiming that he thought the drinks party was actually an important work meeting.
“I want to apologize,” said the grim-faced PM. “I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months... 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... I have learned enough to know there are things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.”
The House of Commons erupted when Johnson told lawmakers that he “believed implicitly” that the drinks party “was a work event,” despite the fact that the emailed invites explicitly encouraged people to bring alcohol. He said: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.”
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, was clearly not satisfied with Johnson’s apology and called on the prime minister to step down with immediate effect. He recounted heartbreaking stories of families who were prevented from seeing dying loved ones in May 2020 when the drinks were flowing in the Downing Street garden.
“There we have it... After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road,” said Starmer.
He went on: “[Johnson’s] defense, that he did not realize he was at a party, is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public. He’s now been forced to admit what everyone knew: When the whole country was locked down he was holding boozy parties in Downing Street.”
Starmer asked, “Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”
Johnson responded that the ongoing inquiry into government gatherings during the lockdown should be allowed to conclude before his fate is decided. To date, the prime minister’s Conservative Party has been accused of holding at least 12 lockdown-breaking gatherings.