Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday apologized for attending a garden party during Britain’s first coronavirus containment, but brushed aside opposition demands that he resign over breaching rules. rules his government had imposed on the country.
The apology, which does not end with an admission of wrongdoing, is Johnson’s attempt to calm a wave of anger from the public and politicians following repeated accusations that he and his staff have made pandemic restrictions by socializing when it is prohibited.
The latest scandal could become a moment for a leader who has weathered another series of storms, with some members of Johnson’s Conservative Party saying he must step down if he breaks the rules. .
Trying to calm his anger, Johnson admitted for the first time on Wednesday that he went to a garden party in May 2020 at his Downing Street office, although he said he considered it an event. working to thank employees for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I want to apologize. … With hindsight, I should have brought everyone back inside,” Johnson told lawmakers during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons.
An invitation to “bring your own wine” to a “social distancing drinks” gathering was emailed to about 100 government employees by a senior aide to the prime minister – although the Johnson said he did not receive.
Opponents and allies have also demanded that Johnson clean up the party, which is celebrated as Britons are prohibited by law from seeing many people outside their households to limit the spread of coronavirus. The gathering comes as millions are cut off from family and friends, and even banned from visiting dying loved ones in hospitals.
Johnson said he understands the rage of those who “have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months… with the thought that everyone in Downing Street is not following those rules” – although he did not explicitly admit it. that I have broken any rules.
Johnson previously said he and his staff always followed the rules.
He urged everyone to wait for the conclusion of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into several alleged parties by government employees. He said Gray will provide “full facts” in her report, expected by the end of the month.
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said the British public thought Johnson was “lying between his teeth”.
“His defense… that he didn’t realize he was at a party was so absurd that it really upset the British public,” said Starmer. “In the end he was forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was shut down, he was throwing drinking parties in Downing Street. Is he going to do something nice and resign now? ”
Johnson did not step down, and Wednesday’s apology gives him some time to regain control. But his fate now rests in the hands of Gray, a veteran civil servant with a reputation for being the straight gunman.
The scandal dubbed “party” adds to a list of troubles for Johnson, who has faced accusations that his Conservative government has imposed pandemic rules at other times. , by hosting garden get-togethers, Christmas get-togethers and Downing Street office trivia nights, both the prime minister’s home and his office. He is also facing insecurity following allegations of financial and moral misconduct against him and his government.
In Parliament on Wednesday, a raft of opposition lawmakers accused Johnson of breaking the law, lying and undermining his office.
Labor lawmaker Chris Bryant says Johnson’s claim that he didn’t realize he was attending a party was not credible.
“How stupid does the Prime Minister think the British people are?” Bryant asked.
Johnson is able to reject criticism from the opposition — as he has done in previous scandals — because his Conservatives have an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons. More worrisome for the prime minister, many members of his own party are increasingly concerned about his judgment and ability to lead.
The Conservatives chose Johnson as leader in 2019 because of his upbeat style and popular contacts, despite the mass accusations of rule-bending and dishonesty that have followed him in the past. throughout her twin career as a journalist and politician. The choice appeared to have been vindicated when he led the party to victory in a major election in December of that year.
But support within the party is being eroded by dissatisfaction with continued pandemic restrictions, which some Conservatives see as draconian, and a growing list of scandals. The question now is whether “partygate” can be a scandal too far away.
The Conservatives have a history of ousting leaders if they are to be held accountable — and a surprising recent defeat in a special election for a district it has held for more than a century. increased their anxiety.
Veteran Conservative lawmaker Christopher Chope said Johnson’s apology gave the party reassurance.
“I think this apology has bought some time, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
But another senior Conservative lawmaker, Roger Gale, said Johnson had “misled the House” with earlier denials of joining the party.
“Politically, the prime minister is a dead man who comes back to life,” he said.
https://time.com/6138749/johnson-lockdown-party-apology/ UK’s Johnson apologizes for attending party during lockdown