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UK PM Johnson’s staff partied as queen mourned death of husband

Randy Mancini 6 Jan 14
Prime Minister's Questions in parliament in London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the parliament in London, Britain, January 12, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

January 14, 2022

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staff partied in Downing Street last year as Queen Elizabeth mourned her husband, a time when mixing indoors was banned for people from different households.

Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after revelations about a series of gatherings in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns, some at times when ordinary people were unable to bid farewell in person to dying relatives.

Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, on Wednesday apologised for a “bring your own booze” gathering at his official residence during Britain’s first coronavirus lockdown. He admitted he attended.

The Telegraph said there were two other drinks parties held inside Downing Street on April 16, 2021 when social gatherings indoors and outdoors were limited. Johnson was at his Chequers country residence that day, the paper said.

The next day, Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Philip, 99.

Dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, the 95-year-old Elizabeth stood alone, head bowed as her husband of 73 years was lowered into the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel.

Such was the revelry in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, that staff went to nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, used a laptop to play music and a swing used by the prime minister’s young son was broken.

Opponents have called for Johnson to resign, casting the 57-year-old prime minister as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his own staff partied.

A small but growing number in his own Conservative Party have echoed those calls, fearing it will do lasting damage to its electoral prospects.

Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken, to understanding the anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.

APOLOGIES

One of the April 2021 parties in Downing Street was a leaving event for James Slack, a former director of communications, who on Friday said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused”.

Slack said in a statement to PA Media that the gathering “should not have happened at the time that it did.”

British police said on Thursday they would not investigate gatherings held in Johnson’s residence during a coronavirus lockdown unless an internal government inquiry finds evidence of potential criminal offences.

Asked about the reports of parties the day before Philip’s funeral, security minister Damian Hinds said he was shocked.

“I was shocked to read it,” Hinds told Sky News. “We will have to see what comes out further in the investigation.”

“This was a particularly sombre time for our whole country.”

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)