BORIS Johnson today APOLOGISED as he finally admitted attending a lockdown-busting drinks bash at Downing Street.
After 24 hours of chaos and questions the PM came clean about the garden party – but claimed he was there for just 25 minutes and it was a “work event”.
Boris Johnson breaks cover at PMQs todayCredit: AFP
The PM leaves No10 this morningCredit: AP
A picture of another gathering in the Downing St garden Credit: Guardian
Issuing a “heartfelt” apology he told MPs: “I certainly wish that things would have happened differently on the evening of May the 20th and I apologise for all the misjudgements that have been made, for which I take full responsibility.”
The PM said he went into the sunshine 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.”
But he grovelled: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside and found some other way to thank them.
“I should have recognised that even if it did fall within guidance, there would be millions of people who would simply not see it that way”.
An hour before the May 2020 party a Cabinet Minister told the public at a press conference to follow Covid rules by only meeting one other person outdoors.
The furore has triggered an onslaught from all sides – including enraged Tories who are now sharpening their knives after a string of flouting accusations.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded his Tory foe “pathetic” and demanded he resign.
In major developments:
- Mr Johnson said the No10 garden was used often to reduce the spread of Covid
- The PM told MPs to wait for the official Whitehall probe into the party
- No10 swatted aside suggestions the PM would be resigning and denied he was a liar
- He said it did not detract from his achievements during the pandemic
- It emerged No10 staff joked about being spied on by drones as they drank gin
- No10 refused to say if the PM brought a bottle or made a speech
- More than 16 Tory MPs broke ranks to publicly skewer the PM
- Other backbenchers talked privately about removing their leader
- Sir Keir Starmer left isolation just in time for the crunch PMQs duel
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak escaped the showdown with a trip to Devon
Mr Johnson was forced out of hiding for his weekly Commons duel with Sir Keir this lunchtime where he fought for his political survival.
Before their clash the PM got on the front foot with a humbling statement addressing the fury erupting over the latest party allegations.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.
“I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want to do the things they love.”
Sir Keir was having none of it and blasted the “pathetic spectacle of a man who’s run out of road.”
The Labour boss railed: “His defence that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that is actually offensive to the British people.
“Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”
The PM swatted away deeper questions of the saga by urging MPs to wait for the findings of a probe being led by Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray.
DOWNING ST IN CRISIS
His premiership was plunged into crisis this week following bombshell revelations that a booze bash was held in the No10 garden during the first lockdown.
In a now notorious email Mr Johnson’s top official Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 Downing St staff to a “socially distanced drinks” after work.
But 18 months after the May 20, 2020 booze-up the PM is now suffering the hangover from hell as a Whitehall probe threatens to strike a devastating blow.
After a string of hypocrisy accusations – that started more than a year ago with Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle trip – the PM is on the ropes.
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Tory MP and long-standing BoJo critic Sir Roger Gale said the PM was a “dead man walking”.
One Tory MP told the Sun: “I don’t see how he can survive. I think if there are enough of us who agree, and I’m fairly sure there are, we need to move ASAP.”
Yet others were encouraged by his Commons performance and were pleased he apologised.
Ex-Minister Sir Christopher Chope said: “I’ve never heard such an abject apology from a government minister in my 30-plus years in this place.
“I think that the prime minister showed contrition and he realised he had done the wrong thing in not intervening at the time and all the rest of it.”
The veteran Tory added: “This is a monumental relief to myself and lots of other colleagues because we didn’t think he’d be able to carry on.”
The PM is standing by embattled Mr Reynolds, who defied warnings to invite more than 100 staff to the booze-up, insisting he “remained in post”.
Downing St today said Mr Johnson had not seen or been sent the now notorious email touting “socially distanced drinks”.
Mr Johnson’s press secretary refused to comment on further details, saying it would be “inappropriate” to preempt Ms Gray’s investigation.
Mr Johnson’s fate now lies in the hands of veteran Whitehall enforcer Ms Gray, who is probing multiple lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
The Government was paralysed with fear last night that the famed tough-nut will find Mr Johnson to have personally broken the law.
Aides are worried a confession of wrongdoing from the PM could lead to a formal police investigation and potential resignation.
The Metropolitan Police are looking at the claims following pressure from opposition parties.
Sir Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to resignCredit: PA