Prime minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign after he told MPs on Wednesday that he had attended a party in the Downing Street Garden in May 2020, during the first national lockdown.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Johnson apologised for attending the event which he was at for “about 25 minutes” but insisted that the "bring your own booze" gathering was “technically within the rules” that were in place at the time.
Johnson said that he had attended the gathering for short period to “thank groups of staff” for their efforts during the early weeks of the pandemic, and that he had “believed implicitly” that the party was a “work event.”
However, the PM that conceded that he “should have sent everyone back inside” when he realised the true nature of the gathering.
Johnson said: “I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that - even if it could have been said technically to fall within the guidance - there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.”
The PM was greeted with fierce criticism from opposition MPs and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who accused Johnson of coming up with “ridiculous” lies and excuses to avoid accountability up until his confession on Wednesday, and urged him to resign.
Sir Keir told the Commons: “There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defence...that he didn't realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it's actually offensive to the British public.
“He's finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozing parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?
"Is the prime minister really so contemptuous of the British public that he thinks he can just ride this out?"
Johnson responded by saying that he understood the anger of the British public at the impression that the population had “made huge sacrifices” to follow Covid restrictions while those in Downing Street were flouting the rules.
The PM added: “I regret the way the event I have described was handled. I bitterly regret it. And wish that we could have done things differently.”
In the entirety of Wednesday’s session, Johnson faced eight separate calls to quit, including from the SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, and Liberal Democrat chief Sir Ed Davey.
Blackford suggested that if the prime minister showed “no sense of shame” and refused to resign, then backbench Conservative MPs ought to “remove him” from his post.
During the session, Johnson told the chamber that senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into alleged breaches of Covid rules in Downing Street will report “as soon as possible”, and that it was appropriate to await its conclusions before he offered any indication as to whether he would resign.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons