Boris Johnson apologized in the House of Commons on Wednesday. As well as wiggled. And apologized again — amid opposition calls that he is a liar who should resign — for attending a “BYOB” garden party at his own home during the height of coronavirus lockdown in May 2020.
“For about 25 minutes,” Johnson explained. To express gratitude to the staff.
After initially claiming that he was unaware of any lockdown parties at 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister admitted to attending a “bring your own booze” catered gathering organized by his private secretary during the height of the first coronavirus wave, when ordinary citizens were forced to forego weddings, funerals, school, office work, and, of course, parties.
Johnson has faced repeated challenges to his veracity in his long career in journalism and politics, as a freewheeling columnist at the Telegraph, as backslapping London mayor, and now as prime minister during a deadly pandemic — about his newspaper articles, his romantic affairs, his cocaine use, his assurances to the queen, and, most recently, his solicitation for donations to pay for the renovation of his flat.
ITV News revealed earlier this week that Johnson’s private secretary Martin Reynolds sent an email invitation to more than 100 staff members at Downing Street, which, like the White House, serves as both office and residence for the country’s leader.
He finally admitted it on Wednesday, under intense pressure from his own Conservative Party.
“I’d like to apologize,” Johnson said in the crowded chamber. “I know that over the last 18 months, millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices.” I understand their anguish at being unable to mourn their relatives, to live their lives as they wish or to do the things they enjoy. And I understand their rage at me and the government I lead when they believe the rules are not being followed by those who make the rules in Downing Street.”
“That apology was pretty worthless, wasn’t it?” said Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, staring down the prime minister.
The front pages of the Wednesday papers would not be appealing to Johnson. Worryingly for the prime minister, it wasn’t just the press that questioned his Conservative Party, also known as the Tories.
However, accusations that there were one set of rules for lawmakers and another for everyone else have struck a chord with the British public, who have personal, vivid experiences of hardship during lockdown.
Many people on social media have shared photos of what they were doing on May 20, 2020, painting poignant vignettes of loneliness and isolation. Others, including members of Parliament, have shared heartbreaking stories about losing loved ones and being unable to visit them in the hospital due to the rules at the time.
The 20th of May was the hottest day of 2020, with temperatures reaching 82 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the country. It would have been a lovely day for a garden drinks reception, but that was not permitted, as senior Conservative politician Oliver Dowden reminded the nation in a news conference at Downing Street less than an hour before the gathering for drinks.
Johnson is a cat with many lives, but it’s unknown how many he has left. In recent weeks, he has faced a series of controversies, ranging from his handling of a “sleaze scandal” involving an ally who resigned for violating lobbying rules to a dispute over the funding of renovations to his Downing Street apartment.
Last month, his Conservative Party lost a parliamentary seat in an area long considered a Conservative stronghold, which was seen as a bad sign for Johnson. For nearly 200 years, his party had held the seat.
The next general election is scheduled for 2024, but the Conservative Party is notorious for dismissing its leaders when they no longer appear to be vote winners. Despite the fact that it did not appear to be imminent, the opposition Labour Party renewed calls for Johnson to resign.
Some Conservatives have spoken out. Christian Wakeford, a Tory MP, expressed his displeasure on Twitter prior to the parliamentary question-and-answer session.