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UPDATE - UK premier offers apologies over Downing Street lockdown party amid calls for resignation

UPDATE - UK premier offers apologies over Downing Street lockdown party amid calls for resignation
Johnson says 'there were things we simply did not get right,' while opposition leaders call on him to resign

UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY BRITISH PRIME MINISTER; ADDS OPPOSITION CALLS TO RESIGN; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK; EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal and Karim El-Bar

LONDON (AA) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered “heartfelt apologies” on Wednesday over a party held at Downing Street during the first COVID-19 lockdown in England.

“I want to apologise,” Johnson said in a short statement as a weekly questions session started in the House of Commons.

“I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months,” he said.

“I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.”

Johnson said: “And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that 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 have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.”

***

“And I must take responsibility,” he said.

Johnson then explained what happened at the Downing Street party that took place on 20 March, 2020, which in turn is only one of several parties alleged to have been held at Downing Street.

He said No 10 was a big department, and that the garden was an extension of the office. The garden was in constant use as it was a source of fresh air to help stop the virus.

Johnson said he entered the garden just after 6 p.m. that day to thank the staff for their hard work, and went back into his office 25 minutes later to continue work.

“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said in his apology, before adding that on hindsight he should have sent everyone back inside because while the event “could be said technically to fall within the guidance” there would be “millions and millions” of people who would not see it that way.

Johnson added: “People who suffered terribly, people who are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.”

He concluded by calling on MPs to wait for the independent inquiry he commissioned into the Downing Street parties to be completed so that “the full facts can be established.”


- Resignation calls

The apology was not good enough for Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, who called on Johnson to resign.

Starmer said: “There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defence ... that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public.”

“He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down he was hosting boozing parties in Downing Street,” he said.

“Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”

When Johnson refused, Starmer insisted: “The party’s over, prime minister.”

“Will the public kick him out, will his party kick him out or will he resign?”

Johnson said he understood his counterpart was “paid to try and remove me from office,” but added: “May I humbly suggest that he waits for the results of the inquiry? I apologise for all the misjudgements that have been made, for which I take full responsibility.”

Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader, also called on Johnson to resign, saying: “Trust has been lost and the public will not forgive or forget.”

“The prime minister can’t get away with it again. Will the prime minister finally do the decent thing and resign or will his Tory MPs be forced to show him the door?”

Meanwhile, a study released on Tuesday by market research company Savanta ComRes found that 66% of Brits think that Johnson should resign, including 42% of those who voted for his Conservative Party at the 2019 election.

source: News Feed
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