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Boris Johnson Has Admitted Attending Downing Street "BYOB" Party And Issued Apology

4 min read

Boris Johnson has apologised for attending a "BYOB" garden party that took place in Downing Street in May 2020 while strict lockdown restrictions were still in place.

In a statement delivered to the Commons before Prime Minister's Questions, 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 rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed.

"I have learned enough to know there are things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility."

Johnson has been under pressure to provide an explanation for the Number 10 party all week after ITV published an email explicitly indicating the event was an opportunity "to make the most of this lovely weather". Those invited were told to "bring your own booze".

But the Prime Minister has claimed he "believed implicitly" that the party "was a work event".

"With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," Johnson said today.

"I should recognise that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way."

Taking to the despatch box to address a packed Commons benches, Labour leader Keir Starmer responded to Johnson's apology by accusing the Prime Minister of "deceit and deception".

"Well there we have it," he said.

"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: when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street."

When pressed by Starmer as to whether he would "do the decent thing and resign", the Prime Minister replied that the Labour leader must wait until the findings of an inquiry into possible lockdown-breaching parties in Number 10 has concluded. 

"He should study [the inquiry] for himself and I will certainly respond as appropriate, and I hope that he does," Johnson said.

"In the meantime, yes I certainly wish that things had happened differently on the evening of May 20, and I apologise for all the misjudgements that have been made, for which I take full responsibility."

The Cabinet Office inquiry into parties held in Downing Street and other Whitehall departments during lockdown is being led by civil servant Sue Gray, who is second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Gray took over leading the inquiry from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case after it emerged that he himself may have been involved in a lockdown-breaching event. 

Gray's findings are expected to be published by the end of the month. Downing Street has mostly refrained from commenting on allegations being investigated, urging people to wait for Gray's conclusions. 

On the Conservative benches, MPs are once again questioning the tenability of Boris Johnson’s leadership.

"I’m sorry. It’s humiliating, and does not reflect the majority of my colleagues who *at least try* and lead by example," former Minister Johnny Mercer tweeted. 

Red Wall MP Christian Wakeford, who was elected in 2019 on a 402 vote majority, tweeted: "How do you defend the indefensible? You can’t!

"It’s embarrassing and what’s worse is it further erodes trust in politics when it’s already low.

"We need openness, trust and honesty in our politics now more than ever and that starts from the top!"

On Tuesday, a poll conducted by Savanta ComRes found that two thirds of the public believe Johnson should resign over the "BYOB" party scandal. 

A similar poll by YouGov, also carried out on Tuesday, showed 56% of the public believe the Prime Minister should quit, including 33% of Tory voters. 

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