No 10 apologises over parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

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No 10 Apologises Over Parties On Eve Of  Prince Philip’s Funeral No 10 Apologises Over Parties On Eve Of  Prince Philip’s Funeral
A spokesman for the British prime minister said the events were ‘regrettable’. Photo: PA Images
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By Geraldine Scott, PA Political Correspondent

Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before Prince Philip’s funeral last year.

Two gatherings reportedly took place at Downing Street, with the British prime minister’s former director of communications James Slack apologising for the “anger and hurt” one of the events – a leaving do held for him – had caused.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson confirmed No 10 has said sorry to the palace.

The spokesman said: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologised to the palace.

“You heard from the PM this week, he’s recognised No 10 should be held to the highest standards, and take responsibility for things we did not get right.”

The day after the events on April 16th 2021, Queen Elizabeth attended her husband philip’s funeral wearing a face mask and socially distanced from her family at Windsor Castle, in line with Covid restrictions.

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The prime minister’s spokesman said Boris Johnson was at his country residence Chequers on April 16th and had not been invited to the events.

(PA Graphics)

Asked why No 10 had apologised rather than Mr Johnson himself, his spokesman said: “Well, again, the prime minister said earlier misjudgments have been made, and it’s right people apologise, as the PM did earlier this week.”

It is understood the apology had been delivered via a telephone call through official channels.

But Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said Mr Johnson should also be offering the queen his resignation.

He said: “The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the prime minister should be offering the palace today.

“Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey said the Tory Party leader should “apologise personally to the queen” and that “he should also use that opportunity to officially hand in his resignation”.

James Slack has apologised for the party (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Cabinet minister Michael Gove denied that the prime minister should tender his resignation, however.

The levelling up secretary told ITV News during a visit to Manchester the public “deserve the truth” and said changes in government were likely to be needed following the publication of Ms Gray’s report, but rejected a suggestion Mr Johnson should quit as part of the shake-up.

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It comes after Mr Slack, who until last year was Mr Johnson’s director of communications, apologised on Friday morning for the “anger and hurt” his leaving party had caused.

Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper – which is understood to have been told about the leaving do on Thursday following a media inquiry – said he took “full responsibility” and was “deeply sorry”.

In an emailed statement issued by The Sun’s publisher, News UK, he added: “This event should not have happened at the time that it did.”

The Co-Op store on The Strand which was allegedly visited by a person with a suitcase to purchase wine for a party being held in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

His party was one of two reported to have taken place that evening, which started separately and later merged.

The Daily Telegraph reported accounts from witnesses, who said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music, with a person sent to a local shop with a suitcase to buy wine.

A Downing Street spokesperson said of Mr Slack’s event: “On this individual’s last day he gave a farewell speech to thank each team for the work they had done to support him, both those who had to be in the office for work and on a screen for those working from home.”

Conservative MP Roger Gale said the gatherings were “wholly unacceptable” and confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson to the 1922 committee of backbench MPs.

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On Thursday evening his Tory colleague Andrew Bridgen became the fifth MP to have publicly said they had written to committee chairman Graham Brady.

The Telegraph reported that as many as 30 letters have been submitted so far, with a total of 54 needed to trigger a vote.

However, foreign secretary Liz Truss said people should “move on” following Mr Johnson’s apology over a previous bash on Wednesday.

Senior Conservative MP Julian Knight told Times Radio: “What I would say is that it will be charitable to say that partygate, if you like, is due to acts of extreme stupidity on behalf of those at No 10.”

 

Meanwhile, the former director general of the government’s Covid Taskforce has apologised over a gathering in the cabinet office for her leaving drinks during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.

Kate Josephs, who is chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said she was co-operating with Ms Gray’s probe, adding: “Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic and I apologise unreservedly.”

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It brings the total number of parties or gatherings alleged to have happened across Whitehall during restrictions to 15.

On Wednesday, the Mr Johnson apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown, but insisted he believed it was a work event and could “technically” have been within the rules.

Members of the government urged Mr Johnson’s critics to wait for the findings of Ms Gray’s inquiry before passing judgment after Tory MPs began publicly calling for him to quit.

The Times reported that the inquiry was expected to find no evidence of criminality but that the investigation could censure Mr Johnson for a lack of judgment and criticise the culture in Downing Street.

The Metropolitan Police said there is no change to its position on investigating Downing Street parties amid fresh allegations of more gatherings taking place.

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