PM issues grovelling apology as he’s accused of ‘taking public for fools’

8 December 2021, 12:16 | Updated: 8 December 2021, 14:08

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has apologised over the "impression" given to the public after No10 aides were seen laughing about a Christmas party in a leaked clip.

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Mr Johnson told MPs: "I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.

"I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

"But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured."

He insisted "disciplinary action" would be taken against staff if needed, as he faced accusations of being caught "red-handed".

There will also be an investigation by the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back to him as soon as possible.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that 489 people died on the day of the Christmas party in December 2020, asking whether Mr Johnson was "ashamed".

However, Mr Johnson repeated that no rules were broken, adding "we need to focus on" what is happening today.

Read more: Met Police to examine leaked footage of No10 aides joking about Christmas party

Read more: Minister pulls out of key interviews in fallout over leaked 'Xmas party' clip

Sir Keir also highlighted the Queen's own sacrifice in leadership, having had to attend Prince Philip's funeral on her own.

The Labour leader told the Commons: "Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she'd been married to for 73 years. Leadership, sacrifice - that's what gives leaders the moral authority to lead.

"Does the Prime Minister think he has the moral authority to lead and to ask the British people to stick to the rules?"

Mr Johnson accused Sir Keir of trying to "muddy the waters, to confuse the public and to cause needless confusion about the guidance" during the pandemic.

However, Sir Keir replied: "That's so desperate and even his own side can see it."

He warned that the Prime Minister had damaged his credibility in enforcing Covid rules.

Read more: ‘He has to go’ - Tories turn on PM as he tries to defend Xmas party vid leak

Meanwhile, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford repeated his earlier call for Mr Johnson's resignation, saying he "can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands".

Mr Blackford said: "Trust and leadership is a matter of life and death. Downing Street wilfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made, shattering the public trust.

"The Prime Minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people. He can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands.

"The Prime Minister has a duty, the only right and moral choice left to him: it is for his resignation. When can we expect it?"

Boris Johnson replied: "The party opposite and indeed the other party opposite are going to continue to play politics. I am going to get on with the job."