Boris Johnson apologizes ‘wholeheartedly’ for ‘partygate’
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a ‘wholehearted’ apology for attending an illegal party during lockdown – but insisted he had not knowingly broken the rules or misled Parliament .
Johnson told Commons lawmakers “it hadn’t occurred to me” that the birthday bash, complete with cake, was a party.
Johnson was fined 50 pounds ($66) last week for attending his own surprise birthday party at 10 Downing St. in June 2020, making him the first British prime minister to breach the law. law during his tenure.
Police are still investigating several other parties at government buildings that Johnson allegedly attended.
Speaking as the House of Commons returned from an 11-day recess over Easter, Johnson apologized for insisting it was a minor error – but dismissed the Opposition calls to step down for flouting restrictions he imposed on the country during the pandemic.
Johnson acknowledged people’s “hurt and anger”, but added that “it didn’t occur to me at the time or afterwards that a gathering in the Cabinet Room, just ahead of a vital COVID strategy meeting, could be a violation of the rules.”
The opposition Labor Party is trying to get lawmakers to censure Johnson over the ‘partygate’ scandal. Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he would allow Labor to hold a Commons debate and vote on whether Johnson should be investigated for allegedly misled Parliament. Ministers found guilty of doing so are generally expected to resign.
The vote is scheduled for Thursday. Before that, Johnson should look contrite, but says it would be wrong to change leaders as Britain faces crises such as the war in Ukraine and pressure on the cost of living due to soaring energy and commodity prices.
Johnson and his Conservative government have faced growing outrage since allegations surfaced late last year that he and his staff held office parties in 2020 and 2021, when millions of people in the country were not allowed to meet their friends and family – or even attend the funerals of their loved ones.
The fine follows a police investigation and a civil service investigation into the gatherings. Johnson tried to answer questions, first saying there were no parties, then insisting he believed no rules were being broken.
Cabinet Secretary Brandon Lewis insisted Johnson was not a liar and always said “what he believes to be the truth”.
“What he said in Parliament he believed to be true at the time,” Lewis said.
Johnson’s grip on power had seemed to be on the edge earlier this year due to the scandal and the departure of several top aides. Allies feared “partygate” could become a tipping point for a leader who weathered a series of other storms over his spending and moral judgment. Some Conservative lawmakers openly called for a vote of no confidence in their leader.
But Johnson hung on, in part because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine distracted public and political attention.
Johnson’s international image, battered by Britain’s disorderly exit from the European Union under his leadership, has been revived by his strong military, political and moral support for Ukraine. Johnson traveled to Kyiv earlier this month to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Johnson could still face further fines. London’s Metropolitan Police are investigating a dozen events, including ‘bring your own booze’ office parties and ‘wine hour Fridays’, hosted by Johnson staff. So far at least 50 tickets have been given out, including those of Johnson, his wife Carrie and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak.
If Johnson is sanctioned again, calls for a vote of no confidence could grow among Tories. For now, Tory lawmaker Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said his colleagues were “withholding judgment and waiting to see what happens.”
But fellow Conservative Tobias Ellwood, who heads the Commons Defense Committee, said the Government ‘should not use the fig leaf of our involvement with Ukraine to say one way or another that this Now is not the time to face these difficult challenges”.
He said the party should hold a vote of no confidence to determine if “the prime minister has support and if we are moving forward, or if it is time for a change”.