'I know the rage they feel': Boris Johnson's full statement over partygate

12 January 2022, 12:06 | Updated: 12 January 2022, 12:48

Boris Johnson said he though the No10 do was a work event
Boris Johnson said he though the No10 do was a work event. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has apologised and admitted he did attend an event at Downing Street in May 2020, when England was in lockdown rules.

The PM said he was sorry over the partygate saga and that he understood people felt "rage" over it.

But despite his attempt to make amends, he insisted he believed the garden do was a work event.

"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," he told MPs during PMQs.

"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."

Read more: Boris apologises as he admits attending No10 lockdown party but will not resign

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It follows weeks of allegations about parties at Downing Street, despite Covid lockdowns and tiered rules.

Sue Gray, a civil servant, has been tasked with investigating claims about events that breached coronavirus restrictions.

The latest fallout came from a leaked email in which Mr Johnson's principal private secretary invited more than 100 people to a "bring your own booze" do in the No10 garden.

After avoiding speaking on the issue on Tuesday, the PM told MPs: "I want to apologise. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

"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."

He went on: "I should have recognised that even if it [the garden event] 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."

He apologised for allowing parties to go ahead and said: "With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them."

Sir Keir Starmer, who just left his Covid isolation period to lead Labour's grilling of Boris Johnson, 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. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?"

Boris Johnson replied: "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."