UK government apologizes to Queen for parties on eve of Philip’s funeral

LONDON: The UK government apologized to Queen Elizabeth II on Friday, following revelations that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staff broke coronavirus restrictions by partying on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

“It is deeply regrettable that this has happened at a time of national mourning and Number 10 (Downing Street) has apologized to the palace,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

The message to the 95-year-old head of state is understood to have been sent by telephone through official channels and not personally by Johnson, who is under pressure to leave after several similar allegations.

He has so far tried to weather the storm of public and political outrage, apologizing to parliament this week for attending a gathering in May 2020, but insisting it was a work program.

Although Johnson was not at either of the two Downing Street parties nearly a year later – on April 16, 2021, as the Queen prepared to bury her husband of 73 years – it would have taken the scandal to another level. Is.

Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle was limited to just 30 guests due to government COVID rules, forcing the Queen to sit alone in a church to mourn.

A similar number of Johnson’s employees had been assaulted separately just hours before by drinking, with music, dancing and alcohol allegedly bought at a supermarket and smuggled into Downing Street in a suitcase.

His spokesman said Johnson, who is currently in isolation because of a close family member who contracted the coronavirus, was at his official country residence at the time.

He declined to say whether Johnson knew about the parties, insisting an internal investigation should establish all the facts surrounding the various ‘PartyGate’ claims.

All three main opposition parties have called for Johnson’s resignation. Five of his own Conservative MPs have publicly called on him to step down.

Andrew Bridghan, a former Loyalist supporter, on Friday became the latest Tory MP to confirm he had submitted a no-confidence letter to a powerful committee of rank-and-file Conservative lawmakers in Johnson.

If 15 percent of the 360 ​​Conservative MPs in parliament, or 54, do the same, it would trigger an internal leadership competition – if Johnson does not choose to step down.

Daily Telegraph, for whom he worked and who first disclosed the party’s latest revelations, reported that 30 MPs had already sent letters.

Bridghan – a staunch supporter of Brexit, which brought Johnson to power in 2019 – wrote in the newspaper that there was currently “a moral void at the heart of our government”.

Most cabinet members have rallied around the prime minister, but support for potential successors such as finance minister Rishi Sunak has been markedly weak.

Johnson’s former communications director, James Slack, apologized for the “anger and hurt” caused by leaving the party on April 16.

Slack, now deputy editor-in-chief at Sun The tabloid said he took “full responsibility” and was “deeply sorry”.

The party reportedly merged with another event marking the departure of one of Johnson’s personal photographers.

Government guidance at the time outlawed socializing leaving your home or support bubble. It saw thousands of families unable to visit their loved ones or attend their funerals who were sick or dying with COVID.

Angela Rainer, deputy leader of the main opposition Labor Party, and others held onto the revelations, arguing that they showed a culture of double standards at the heart of the government.

Published in Dawn, January 15, 2022