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Boris Johnson Aides Partied on Eve of Royal Funeral

Lockdown-breaking party was held at prime minister's residence
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 14, 2022 4:10 AM CST
Ex-Johnson Aide Sorry for Party on Eve of Royal Funeral
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions in London, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

(Newser) – Boris Johnson’s former communications chief apologized "unreservedly" on Friday for a lockdown-breaching party in Downing Street last year—the latest in a string of rule-breaking social events that are threatening to topple the British prime minister. James Slack said his April 2021 job-leaving party "should not have happened at the time that it did," the AP reports. "I wish to apologize unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused," Slack said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility," added Slack, who left the government last year and is now deputy editor-in-chief of tabloid newspaper the Sun. News of the party has appalled many in Britain because of the symbolism of its timing—April 16, 2021, the night before the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip.

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Johnson is not alleged to have attended the leaving party, disclosed by the Telegraph newspaper. Earlier this week he apologized for going to another gathering in the garden of Downing Street, his office and home, in May 2020, when the UK was under strict lockdown. The Telegraph reports Downing Street staff drank, danced, and socialized at leaving parties for Slack and another staff member on April 16 last year. The next day, the widowed queen sat alone in the church during her husband’s funeral service in order to adhere to social distancing rules that barred indoor mixing. Photos of the monarch, clad in black and wearing a mask, became a powerful image of the isolation and sacrifice endured by many during the pandemic.

The latest revelations are likely to prompt more Conservatives to join opponents and demand that Johnson resign for flouting the rules the government imposed on the country as the coronavirus swept the UK. Many Conservatives fear the "partygate" scandal could become a tipping point for a leader who has weathered a series of other storms over his expenses and his moral judgment. On Wednesday Johnson said he understood public "rage," but stopped short of admitting wrongdoing, saying he had considered the gathering a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic. He urged people to await the conclusions of an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into multiple alleged rule-breaking parties by government staff during the pandemic. (One Conservative lawmaker called Johnson a "dead man walking.")

(Read more United Kingdom stories.)

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