British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday extended a heartfelt apology in the House of Commons in response to growing anger around reports of a bring-your-own-booze party in the 10 Downing Street garden during COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020.
Johnson has been under intense pressure from the opposition Labour Party as well as members of his own Conservative Party since an email invitation for the event on May 20, 2020, emerged in the media.
He expressed regret as he admitted for the first time that he did attend the event, which he said he believed fell within the scope of a work event.
"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 to be technically within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way," he said, calling on Parliament to wait for the findings of an ongoing investigation into lockdown breaches within government ranks.
However, he faced a blistering attack from the Opposition benches, with Labour Leader Keir Starmer leading the charge to demand his resignation. "I take responsibility and I apologise. But as for his political point, I don't think that he should pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry," Starmer said.
The inquiry is being conducted by senior UK civil servant Sue Gray, who is investigating all such alleged lockdown breaches within government quarters including at Downing Street. Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party called for Johnson to step down too. "Regretfully I have to say that his position is no longer tenable," he told the Guardian.
William Wragg, vice-chair of the powerful 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers said fellow MPs were “frankly worn out from defending what is invariably indefensible”.
“For their sakes at least the prime minister should see that and do the right thing,” Wragg added. Wragg also expressed that the future of the prime minister should not be left to the findings in the inquiry being conducted by senior UK civil servant Sue Gray. Another Conservative Party politician Dan Poulter said he was “pleased” Johnson had apologised but it was “not much consolation to those of us who cared for patients on the frontline of the NHS and saw them die of COVID-19”.
-- With PTI inputs