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Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

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Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in London on Wednesday.

Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP


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Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

 | News Today

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in London on Wednesday.

Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

LONDON – Boris Johnson’s office apologized to the Royal Family on Friday for hosting staff parties in Downing Street the day before Prince Philip’s funeral last year – the latest in a series of rallies allegedly violating the lockdown that threaten to topple the British Prime Minister.

Farewell parties for the departure of Johnson’s picture doctor and another staff member, complete with drinking and late night dancing, took place on April 16, 2021, the night before the Queen Elizabeth II won’t sit alone at her husband’s funeral due to social distancing rules in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Johnson spokesman Jamie Davies admitted the news of the rallies had sparked “significant public anger.”

“It is deeply regrettable that this has come at a time of national mourning and that number 10 has apologized to the palace,” he said, using a term to refer to the Prime Minister’s office at 10 Downing Street .

Former Johnson communications director James Slack has apologized for the “anger and hurt” caused by his farewell party.

“I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility,” added Slack, who left government last year and is now deputy editor of tabloid newspaper The Sun.

Johnson’s office said the Prime Minister was not in Downing Street, where he both lives and works, on April 16, and was unaware that no rally was scheduled for that day. But each new revelation about social events in the prime minister’s office during the pandemic has weakened his grip on power.

Earlier this week, Johnson apologized for going to a garden party in Downing Street in May 2020, when the UK was under a strict lockdown and the law barred people from meeting more than a person outside their home. Millions of people have been cut off from family and friends and have even been prevented from visiting dying relatives in hospitals.

Most indoor social gatherings were also banned in April 2021 and funerals were limited to 30 people. But it is the symbolism of the timing of recent events that has dismayed many people in Britain. The Daily Telegraph, which broke the news, said Downing Street staff drank, danced and socialized late at night, and at one point an employee was sent with a suitcase to a nearby supermarket to buy more alcohol. The next day, the Widowed Queen sat alone in a church in Windsor Castle to say goodbye to her 73-year-old husband.

Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

 | News Today

Queen Elizabeth II sits alone in Saint George’s Chapel on April 17, 2021, during Prince Philip’s funeral.

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Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

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Queen Elizabeth II sits alone in Saint George’s Chapel on April 17, 2021, during Prince Philip’s funeral.

Jonathan Brady / AP

Photos of the monarch, dressed in black and wearing a face mask, have become a powerful image of the isolation and sacrifice endured by many during the pandemic.

Many Tories fear the partygate scandal could turn out to be a turning point for a leader who has weathered a series of other storms over his spending and moral judgment.

The latest revelations should prompt more Tories to join their opponents in demanding Johnson’s resignation for flouting government-imposed rules on the rest of the country.

In a sign of growing anger within the party ranks, the Tory association in the fiercely Tory district of Sutton Coldfield in central England voted unanimously Thursday night to withdraw support for Johnson.

“Culture starts at the top, doesn’t it? Said Simon Ward, a Conservative city councilor.

“We were asking people across our country to make massive sacrifices, people in rural Sutton Coldfield to make massive sacrifices, over the past two years. I think we have a right to expect everyone in government and in those leadership positions to follow those same rules and guidelines as well. “

Johnson said in his apology on Wednesday that he understood the ‘rage’ of the public, but did not admit wrongdoing, saying he had considered the garden to put together a working event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Johnson has urged people to wait for the findings of an investigation by senior official Sue Gray into several parties suspected of breaking the rules by government staff during the pandemic. Gray, a respected official who has investigated past allegations of ministerial wrongdoing, is expected to report by the end of the month.

The government says Gray’s investigation is independent, but she is a public servant and Johnson is, ultimately, her boss. Gray could conclude that Johnson broke the code of conduct for government ministers, although she does not have the authority to fire him. Johnson did not say what he would do if she found out he was at fault.

Johnson doesn’t have to face voter judgment until the next general election, slated for 2024. But his party could seek to oust him sooner if colleagues believe he has turned toxic.

Under Conservative rules, a vote of no confidence in the leader can be called if 54 party lawmakers – 15% of the total – write letters asking for it.

Roger Gale, a Tory lawmaker who has long criticized Johnson, said he had already submitted a letter calling for a change in leadership.

“I think that minds are now, this weekend, focused on the need to take the necessary measures,” he said. “I clearly don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, how many of my colleagues have sent letters… but I think there is a certain momentum building.”

Cabinet ministers are backing Johnson, at least for now.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – often cited as Johnson’s potential successor – said she understood “the people’s anger and dismay” at the party’s revelations.

But she said, “I think we have to move on now.”

Boris Johnson’s office apologizes for party ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral: NPR

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