VIDEO: Boris Johnson making ‘pathetic spectacle’ of himself over alleged Covid rule flouting says Labour
Boris Johnson has offered an apology to the House of Commons and the nation over the furore surrounding the alleged breaches of Covid rules by him – but this cut no mustard with the opposition.
He made the remarks facing a full house, with standing room only as he was peppered with queries over the affair during his regular Prime Minister’s Questions session.
The session is ongoing at the moment.
But Mr Johnson’s opening words were there: “Mr Speaker 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 they’ve been through unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.
“And I know the rage they feel with me, and with the government I lead, when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry I’ve learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.”
Sue Gray (who formerly worked in the NI civil service and, unusually, used to run a pub in Newry) is looking into a series of alleged parties held during lockdown in No 10 and Whitehall.
In particular Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited colleagues to “socially distanced drinks” on May 20, 2020 to “make the most of the lovely weather” – urging them to “bring your own booze”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer tore into the Prime Minister after his apology, saying: “There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road.
“He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”
Boris Johnson said: “I appreciate the point that he’s making about the event that I attended. I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event and I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening.
“I take responsibility and I apologise. But as for his political point, I don’t think that he should pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry. He will have a further opportunity, I hope, to question me as soon as possible.”
Stephen Farry, Alliance deputy leader, said: “Today’s apology is too little, too late.
“If the Prime Minister was sincere, he could have apologised at any stage over the last 18 months rather than waiting til he was found out.
“My constituents in north Down and people across the UK feel betrayed by the PM. We’ve had over 150,000 deaths from Covid over the past couple of years. We have seen standards in public life trashed.
“For once can the PM do the honourable thing and resign, for the sake of the public health message and for standards in our democracy.”
Mr Johnson replied: “I grieve for everybody who has died and suffered. On his political point, can I propose he waits for the inquiry to report.”
Mr Starmer also said the House and country were “moved” by comments from DUP MP Jim Shannon.
“He was following the rules whilst the Prime Minister was partying in Downing Street,” he said.
“Is the Prime Minister really so contemptuous of the British public that he thinks he can just ride this out?”
Mr Johnson said he heard the testimony of Mr Shannon and said “it was deeply moving”: “I know that people up and down the country made huge sacrifices throughout this pandemic and I understand the anger, the rage that they feel at the thought that people in Downing Street were not following those rules.
“I regret the way the event I have described was handled. I bitterly regret it. And wish that we could have done things differently. I have and will continue to apologise for what we did, but he must wait for the inquiry, which will report as soon as possible.”
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