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UK leader’s office apologizes for party before royal funeral

LONDON – Boris Johnson’s office on Friday apologized to the royal family for hosting a staff party in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year – the latest in a string of gatherings that were banned. Alleged lock breach threatens to topple UK prime minister.

The farewell party for Johnson’s departing cameraman and another staff member, complete with late-night drinking and dancing, takes place on 16 April 2021, the night before the Queen Elizabeth II sat alone at her husband’s funeral because of social distancing rules. slow the spread of coronavirus.

Johnson spokesman Jamie Davies said the government acknowledged that news of the gatherings had caused “considerable public anger”.

“It’s a pity as this comes at a time of national mourning and number 10 has apologized to the palace,” he said, using a term for the 10 Downing St office.

“I deeply apologize and take full responsibility,” added Slack, who left government last year and is now deputy editor-in-chief of the tabloid The Sun.

Johnson’s office said the prime minister was not in Downing Street, where he lives and works, on April 16, and was not aware of any gatherings that were planned that day. Earlier this week, Johnson apologized for going to a private gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when the UK was under strict embargo.

The latest revelations about the party have left many in the UK appalled by the timing of events. The Daily Telegraph reported, that Downing Street employees drank, danced and socialized late into the night, and at one point an employee was sent carrying a suitcase to a nearby supermarket to buy more alcohol. The next day, the widowed queen sat alone in the chapel at Windsor Castle to say goodbye to her husband of 73 years.

The pictures of the king, dressed in black and wearing a mask, have become a powerful image of the isolation and sacrifice many people have suffered during the pandemic.

Members of Johnson’s Conservative government expressed support for the prime minister after he admitted on Wednesday that he attended a “bring your own wine” staff party in the office’s garden Downing Street room in May 2020.

At the time, people in the UK were prohibited by law from meeting many people outside their households as part of measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. Millions of people have been cut off from family and friends, and even banned from visiting dying loved ones in hospitals.

Many Conservatives fear the “partisan” scandal could become the tipping point for a leader who has weathered a series of other storms over his costs and moral judgment.

The latest revelations are likely to spur more Conservatives to join up against opponents and demand Johnson’s resignation for breaching rules the government imposed on the country as the coronavirus swept through the UK.

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

“Culture starts at the top, doesn’t it?” Simon Ward, a local Conservative councilor said. “And that’s where it’s really disappointing.

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

Johnson said in his apology Wednesday that he understood the “rage” of the public, but did not admit wrongdoing, saying he views the rally as a work event to feel. Thank employees for their efforts during the pandemic.

Johnson urged people to await the conclusion of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into multiple parties accused of rule violations by government employees during the pandemic. Grey, a respected public servant who has investigated previous allegations of ministerial misconduct, is expected to report at 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 may conclude that Johnson has violated the code of conduct for government ministers, even though she has no power to fire him. Johnson hasn’t said what he will do if she finds him at fault.

Johnson does not face voter judgment until the next general election, scheduled for 2024. But his party could seek to oust him sooner if they see him as independent. harmful.

Under Conservative Party rules, a vote of no confidence in the leader could be triggered if 15% of the party’s lawmakers wrote a letter asking for it.

Roger Gale, a Conservative lawmaker who has long criticized Johnson, said he had sent a letter calling for a leadership challenge.

“I really think the mind right now, this weekend, is focused on the need to take the necessary action,” he said. “I obviously don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, how many of my colleagues have mailed… but I believe there is some momentum developing.”

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

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

https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/johnson-aide-party-eve-royal-funeral-82262588 UK leader’s office apologizes for party before royal funeral

Emma Bowman

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