BORIS JOHNSON today APOLOGISED as he faced the music over bombshell claims he attended a lockdown-busting drinks bash at Downing Street.
After 24 hours of chaos and questions the PM finally broke cover to admit he DID attend the garden party – and expressed regret he didn’t tell everyone to stop.
PM speaking today
The PM leaves No10 this morningCredit: AP
Mr Johnson emerged this lunchtime to an onslaught coming from all sides – including enraged Tories already sharpening their knives.
He was forced out of hiding for his weekly Commons duel with Sir Keir Starmer this lunchtime where he’s fighting for his political survival.
Before their clash the PM got on the front foot with a humbling statement addressing the fury.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.
“I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want to do the things they love.”
His premiership was plunged into crisis this week following bombshell revelations that a booze bash was held in the No10 garden during the first lockdown.
In a now notorious email Mr Johnson’s top official Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 Downing St staff to a “socially distanced drinks” after work.
But 18 months after the May 20, 2020 booze-up the PM is now suffering the hangover from hell as a Whitehall probe threatens to strike a devastating blow.
Just an hour earlier a Cabinet Minister had told the public at a press conference to follow the rules by only meeting one other person outside.
After a string of hypocrisy accusations – that started more than a year ago with Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle trip – the PM is now on the ropes.
In major developments:
- No10 staff joked about being spied on by drones as they drank gin, it emerged
- More than 16 Tory MPs broke ranks to publicly skewer the PM
- Other backbenchers talked privately about removing their leader
- Sir Keir Starmer left isolation just in time for the crunch PMQs duel
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak escaped the showdown with a trip to Devon
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner this morning threw down the gauntlet and urged the PM to come clean about his role in the bash.
She said: “It is very simple for me. I’ve been asking the PM for the last couple of days, you just have to say, were you at this party or not on May 20?
“He can clear this up very quickly and he has refused to do so, so far.
“He has really undermined the office of PM by letting this carry on and continue because he refuses to tell the British public what they deserve to hear.”
The escalating row over the bash has erupted into the biggest crisis of the PM’s premiership.
This morning No 10 took the rare step of failing to send a minister out onto the morning airwaves to answer questions.
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Senior Tories and donors are now questioning BoJo’s future after he did not deny attending the rule-breaking “bring your own booze” bash.
One Tory MP told the Sun: “I don’t see how he can survive. I think if there are enough of us who agree, and I’m fairly sure there are, we need to move ASAP.”
Mr Johnson went to ground and dodged a heated and at times tearful Commons showdown yesterday about the party.
Instead he hid behind junior minister Michael Ellis, who had to go out and face the wrath of MPs on his behalf.
The Paymaster General insisted BoJo “is going nowhere” and “retains the confidence of the people of this country”.
Drawing the short straw to front the anger of MPs, he insisted he had “confidence” in Mr Johnson’s “integrity and honour”.
Downing Street did not deny the PM and Carrie attended the party, that eyewitnesses claim saw 40 civil servants and aides “enjoy the sunshine” while mixing was banned for the rest of the country.
The PM stood by embattled mandarin Mr Reynolds, who defied warnings to invite more than 100 staff to the booze-up, insisting he “remained in post” last night.
Mr Johnson’s fate now lies in the hands of veteran Whitehall enforcer Sue Gray, who is probing multiple lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
The Government was paralysed with fear last night that the famed tough-nut will find Mr Johnson to have personally broken the law.
Aides are worried a confession of wrongdoing from the PM could lead to a formal police investigation and potential resignation.
The Metropolitan Police are looking at the claims following pressure from opposition parties.
A picture of another gathering in the Downing St garden Credit: Guardian