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UK’s Johnson apologises for attending lockdown party

Published:Wednesday | January 12, 2022 | 9:18 AM
In this screengrab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday, January 12, 2022. Johnson has apologised for attending a garden party during Britain’s coronavirus lockdown. He said Wednesday that there are things the government “did not get right.” (House of Commons/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised Wednesday for attending a garden party during Britain's coronavirus lockdown in 2020, but brushed aside opposition demands that he resign for breaching the rules his own government had imposed.

Johnson is facing a tide of anger from the public and politicians over claims he and his staff flouted pandemic restrictions by socialising when it was banned. Some members of his Conservative Party have joined in the criticism, saying he must quit if he can't quell the furore.

Johnson acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he went to a May 2020 garden party at his Downing Street office, though he said that he had considered it a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

“I want to apologise. … With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside,” Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

Opponents and allies alike have been demanding Johnson come clean about the “bring your own booze” party, held when Britain was under a strict lockdown imposed by Johnson to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

An invitation to the “socially distanced drinks” gathering was emailed to about 100 people by a senior prime ministerial aide.

At the time, people in Britain were barred by law from meeting more than one person outside their household.

Johnson's lunchtime appearance at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons was his first public appearance since details of the party emerged.

The prime minister struck a tone of contrition but urged people to await the conclusions of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into several alleged parties by government staff.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson's statement was “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,” Starmer said. “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?”

Johnson declined to resign, but said he understood the rage of people who “have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months.”

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