British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Fridayfaced mounting leadership pressure amid further allegations of parties
held at his Downing Street office-residence by staff, categorisedas a “partygate” scandal due to the apparent serial breaches of lockdown rules in place at the time.
‘The Daily Telegraph' reported on two farewell parties made up of about 30 people drinking alcohol and dancing to music until the earlyhours of April 17 last year, the night before the funeral of Prince
Philip – the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral. Downing Street said thetiming was “deeply regrettable” and that it had apologised to Buckingham Palace.
“It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of nationalmourning and Number 10 has apologised to the Palace," the UK Prime Minister's spokesperson said."You heard from the prime minister this week, he's recognised Number10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for things we did not get right,” the spokesperson said.
It is understood that a call from the Prime Minister's office was made to the Palace on Friday. Restrictions at the time banned indoor mixing between different households and Queen Elizabeth II sat alone during the church ceremony for her late husband in keeping with social distancing rules. "This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility," said James Slack, the UK Prime Minister's former Director of Communications, at the centre of the farewell that led to the party last April.
Slack, now deputy editor-in-chief at ‘The Sun' newspaper, apologised"unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused".
While Prime Minister Johnson was not at either of the two gatherings in April 2021 as he was spending the weekend at his Buckinghamshirecountry estate Chequers, the latest revelations add to the saga around rules being broken at the heart of the UK government.
Ministers have insisted that top civil servant Sue Gray's ongoing internal investigation into such gatherings will determine the extent of wrongdoing and therefore judgment should be reserved until her probe concludes.
"If the details that are in this story turn out to be true, clearlypeople are going to form their judgment," UK Security Minister Damian Hinds said on Thursday, with reference to the fresh revelations which call Boris Johnson's leadership of his party and country into question.
"I am entirely behind the Prime Minister and the government, and I think the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown, particularlythrough the coronavirus, has been very strong," said Hinds. But battle lines are being drawn within the Conservative Party,with many of Johnson's own MPs demanding he step down as leader. “I want to apologise.