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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Johnson’s office apologizes to Queen for pre-funeral parties

Johnson'S Office Apologizes To Queen For Pre-Funeral Parties

Jill Lawless | Associated Press

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s office apologized to the royal family on Friday for holding staff parties on Downing Street ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, the latest in a list of alleged quarantine-breaking gatherings that threaten to overthrow the British prime minister.

Farewell parties for outgoing political strategist Johnson and another staff member with nightly drinking and dancing took place on April 16, 2021, the night before Queen Elizabeth II sat alone at her husband’s funeral due to social distancing rules in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davis acknowledged that the news of the meetings generated “significant public anger”.

“It is very unfortunate that this happened at a time of national mourning and No. 10 has apologized to the palace,” he said, using the term for the prime minister’s office, 10 Downing Street.

Johnson’s former communications director James Slack, who is now deputy editor of the tabloid newspaper The Sun, apologized “unreservedly” for the “anger and resentment” caused by his farewell party.

Johnson’s office said the prime minister was not at Downing Street, where he lives and works, on 16 April and was not aware that any meetings were planned.

But each new revelation of social developments in the prime minister’s office, while the majority in the UK were in isolation, weakened his power and increased calls for his resignation. A scandal that began weeks ago with reports of a Christmas party in December 2020 has escalated into about a dozen alleged social gatherings at 10 Downing Street and other government buildings.

Former head of the government’s COVID-19 task force, Kate Josephs, apologized on Friday for throwing a drink party at her office in December 2020. The Daily Mirror reported that Johnson encouraged his office staff to “let off steam” on a regular basis. work “wine time on Fridays”. The newspaper reported that staff had brought a wine cooler to Downing Street to store supplies for the meetings.

So far, none of the alleged parties have been debunked by Johnson’s office.

It is alleged that the Prime Minister did not attend many of the evenings. But earlier this week, Johnson apologized for going to a garden party on Downing Street in May 2020 when the UK was under strict lockdowns and people were legally barred from meeting more than one person outside their household. Millions of people have been cut off from family and friends, even banned from visiting dying relatives in hospitals.

In April 2021, most indoor public gatherings were also banned and funerals were limited to 30 people.

The symbolism of the April parties horrified many in Britain. The Daily Telegraph, which broke the news, reported that Downing Street employees were drinking, dancing and socializing late into the night, and that at one point one of the employees was sent with a suitcase to a nearby supermarket to buy more booze. The next day, the widowed Queen sat alone in the church at Windsor Castle to say goodbye to her 73-year-old husband.

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

Many conservatives fear that the “party” could be a watershed moment for the leader, who has weathered a number of other storms over his spending and his moral judgments.

In a sign of growing Conservative anger over the revelations, the party association in central England’s pro-Tory district of Sutton Coldfield in central England voted unanimously on Thursday evening to withdraw its support for Johnson.

“Culture starts at the top, doesn’t it?” said Simon Ward, a Conservative local councillor. He said people across the country have been asked to make “enormous sacrifices” during the pandemic.
“I think we have a right to expect everyone in government and in these leadership positions to follow the same rules and guidelines,” he said.

Johnson said in his apology on Wednesday that he understands the public’s “anger” but did not admit wrongdoing, saying he considered the garden gathering a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Johnson urged people to await the conclusions of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into all of the party’s allegations. Grey, a respected civil servant who has investigated past allegations of ministry wrongdoing, is expected to submit a report by the end of the month.

The government says Gray’s investigation is independent, but she is a government employee and Johnson is ultimately her boss. Gray could conclude that Johnson violated 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 that he was at fault.

Johnson will not have to face the voters’ court until the next general election scheduled for 2024. But his party may try to overthrow him sooner if his peers feel that the leader they have chosen for their popularity has become venomous.

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World Nation News Desk
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