In an attempt to cool the hot water surrounding the so-called “party-gate” scandal, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized to Parliament Wednesday. It was Johnson’s first acknowledgment that he attended a garden party while the United Kingdom was locked down in May of 2020. Johnson said he considered the event a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I take responsibility and I apologize.” He added that he understood the rage of people who “have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months … at the thought that people in Downing Street were not following those rules.”
While Johnson did apologize for the lockdown party, he stopped short of admitting fault and said the gathering might have been “technically” within the guidelines. Johnson’s appearance at parliament comes amid a wave of anger among the British public and British politicians alike.
“The prime minister pretended that he had been assured there were no parties. How that fits with his defence I do not know. Then the video landed, blowing the prime minister’s first defence out of the water,” opposition party leader Keir Starmer said in Parliament Wednesday. “So then he pretended, he pretended he was sickened and furious about the parties. Now it turns out he was at the parties all along. Can’t the prime minister see why the British public think he’s lying through his teeth?”
The backlash from Johnson’s lockdown party includes some members of his own political party calling for his resignation.
“I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives,” Douglas Ross, the leader of the party’s Scottish wing, said, adding that Johnson’s “position is no longer tenable.”
An inquiry into the lockdown party is underway. Johnson warned Parliament to not “pre-empt the outcome” of the inquiry.
“I know that it is his objective and he’s paid to try to remove me from office, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate that and I accept that,” Johnson said, addressing Starmer. “But may I humbly suggest to him that he should wait until the inquiry has concluded. He should study it for himself and I will certainly respond as appropriate and I hope that he does.”