LONDON — Boris Johnson’s former communications chief apologized “unreservedly” on Friday for a lockdown-breaching party in Downing Street last year — the latest in a string of rule-breaking social events that are threatening to topple the British prime minister.
James Slack claimed that the April 2021 job-leaving party he attended “should not” have occurred at the moment it did.
Slack released a statement saying that he was sorry for his anger and pain.
Slack said, “I am deeply sorry and accept full responsibility.” He left government in 2011 and now serves as deputy editor-in chief of The Sun tabloid newspaper.
UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON APOLOGIZES AS PRESSURE MOUNTS FOR HIM TO RESIGN OVER ‘PARTYGATE’
The Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed that Johnson has not been accused of attending the leaving party. Johnson had earlier this week apologized for attending another party in Downing Street’s garden, which was his home and office, during the May 2020 lockdown.
The latest party has appalled many in Britain because of the symbolism of its timing — April 16, 2021, the night before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Downing Street staff danced, drank, and socialized at the April 16th party for Slack’s and another staffer. The next day, the widowed queen sat alone in the church during her husband’s funeral service in order to adhere to social distancing rules that barred indoor mixing.
The monarch in black, wearing a mask and clad with his face, was a strong symbol of the sacrifices and isolation many had to endure during the pandemic.
Members of Johnson’s Conservative government have expressed support for Johnson following his admission on Wednesday that he attended a “bring your own booze” staff party in the garden of his Downing Street office in May 2020.
As part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, British citizens were prohibited from meeting with more than one person in their homes. People were isolated from their families and friends and prevented from visiting sick relatives.
These latest revelations will likely prompt Conservatives to join their opponents in demanding Johnson’s resignation for failing to follow the rules Johnson was governed by when the coronavirus epidemic swept through the U.K.
Conservatives are concerned that “partygate” could prove to be too much for someone who’s already been subject to a number of scandals over expenses and morality.
Johnson claimed Wednesday that Johnson understood the public’s “rage”, but he did not confess to any wrongdoing. Johnson explained that the gathering was a workplace event, in which he wanted staff to express appreciation for their work during the pandemic.
Johnson encouraged people to attend the conclusion of an investigation by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant into multiple rule-breaking entities by government officials during the pandemic. Gray is a well-respected public servant, who investigated previous allegations of ministerial misconduct. She will report to the government by the end the month.
Gray says her inquiry was independent. But Gray is a civil servant. Johnson is ultimately her boss. Gray might conclude Johnson broke the code for ministers of government conduct, but she is not able to fire him. Johnson is not yet clear on what Johnson will do in the event that she finds him to be at fault.
Johnson will not be subject to voters’ judgement until 2024, when the next general elections are scheduled. His party might try to expel him earlier if it deems Johnson toxic.
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Conservative rules permit a party to request a no confidence vote for the leader if it is requested by 15% of its members.
Roger Gale is a Conservative lawmaker, who had long been critical about Johnson. He said that he has already written a request for Johnson to be challenged as leader.
“I think minds are focused now over the weekend upon the need for the necessary actions,” he stated. “I clearly don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, how many of my colleagues have put in letters … but I believe that there is some momentum which is growing.”