Boris Johnson PMQs: Prime Minister issues apology over Downing Street 'bring your own booze' party but insists he thought it was a "work event"

Boris Johnson apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown as he battled to save his premiership.

By Adam Lord
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 12:39 pm

The Prime Minister acknowledged the public “rage” over the incident but insisted he thought it could have been technically within the rules.

Mr Johnson told MPs that he attended the May 20 2020 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff”.

In a statement at the start of PMQs on Wednesday, he said: “I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

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Boris Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday

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

“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 have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.

“No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

“When I went into that garden just after six on May 20, 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.

“With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

“I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.

“All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.

“I will of course come back to this House and make a statement.”

Sir Keir Starmer asked the Prime Minister if he is now “going to do the decent thing and resign”.

The Labour leader 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 boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”

Mr 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.”