British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure to resign for allegedly breaking Covid isolation rules, offered an apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday for attending a drinks party in the garden of 10, Downing Street, on May 20, 2020.
Even The Daily Telegraph, which is Boris’s own paper to which he will no doubt return if he is forced out of office, has not been supportive of the Prime Minister.
Its page one story on Wednesday was headlined, “Johnson losing Tory support”, and in its leader column, the paper said, “Boris Johnson must clear up this mess if he is to survive”.
Other page one stories would have made equally unhappy reading for Boris: “Is the party over for PM?” (Daily Mail); “Say sorry or doom us all, ministers tell Johnson” (The Times); “The Party’s Over, Boris” (Daily Mirror); and “Johnson faces ‘Potentially terminal’ showdown over Downing Street parties” (Financial Times).
At the much anticipated “PMQ (Prime Minister’s Questions)” on Wednesday, Boris offered an apology. But it remains to be seen whether this will save his premiership because a section of the Conservative Party is also beginning to doubt whether he is the right man to lead the Tories into the next election.
He began: “Mr. Speaker, 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 anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want, or to do the things they love. And 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 by the people who make the rules.
“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry (by senior civil servant Sue Gray), I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right. And I must take responsibility.
“Number 10 is a big department with the gardens as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. And when I went into that garden, just after 6pm on the 20th of May 2020 to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later, to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
“For me, Mr. Speaker, with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them. And I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the (Covid isolation) guidance.
“There would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way. People who suffered terribly, people who are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside. And to them and to this house, I offer my heartfelt apologies. And all I ask is for Sue Gray to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established. And I will of course come back to this house and make a statement.”
This was not enough for the Labour leader Keir Starmer who said: “His defence that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous. That is actually offensive to the British public.”