Downing Street, as the building where the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom works and resides is usually known, this Friday sent a formal apology to Queen Elizabeth II for the two parties with alcohol and music that were held by up to thirty of her employees during the hours prior to the funeral of the prince consort, Felipe de Edimurgo. On April 17, the Queen sat alone on a side bench in the Windsor Castle Chapel, under a black mask that covered part of her face. It was part of the harsh social restrictions that still prevailed throughout the UK. The Boris Johnson government even asked citizens not to bring flowers to the gate of Buckingham Palace or to Windsor, to avoid crowds in the midst of the pandemic. For all that, the revelation of the diary The Daily Telegraph -Very conservative, very supportive of Brexit. Strongly supportive of Johnson. So far – that in the hours leading up to the funeral there were two other banned parties in Downing Street has raised popular outrage against the government by several degrees.
“It is deeply regrettable that this occurred during a time of national mourning, and 10 Downing Street has apologized to the Palace. [de Buckingham]”Said a Johnson spokesperson. There has been a telephone call and official communication in writing to the staff of Elizabeth II, but Downing Street has not wanted to clarify whether Johnson himself has been the one who has transmitted the apologies, or if he plans to do so next Tuesday, in his usual weekly office with the monarch.
“All of this shows how badly Boris Johnson has demoted the Prime Minister’s Office,” Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labor opposition, said in a public statement. After going so far this week as to publicly call for his rival’s resignation, during their showdown last Wednesday in the House of Commons, Starmer wants to keep the pressure on Johnson at all costs. “The Conservatives have let the UK down. An apology is not just what the prime minister should offer Buckingham Palace. Johnson must do the only decent thing he can do: resign ”, reiterated the Labor politician.
On this occasion, as revealed by the newspaper The Daily TelegraphJohnson was not present at either party. He was now at Checkers, the British Prime Minister’s official resting place. But it was once again under his jurisdiction and mandate that Downing Street staff broke the rules that were rigorously imposed on the rest of the country. Meetings inside of people from different homes were still forbidden then.
Both events were called to lay off two workers. One of those who was leaving was James Slack, until then the Prime Minister’s Communications Director. An inheritance from the era of her predecessor, Theresa May. The other was one of Johnson’s official photographers. Alcohol ran in abundance, as they have narrated to the Telegraph some witnesses. There was laughter and dancing. The revelry went on until dawn. Some started in the offices and ended in the garden. Others, in the Downing Street basement, where even a loud laptop provided the music. Someone even went to the nearby supermarket with an empty briefcase that he filled with bottles of wine. In the end, the 30 or so people who made up the two parties ended up in the garden together.
Slack has published his own apologies for everything that happened this Friday: “I want to apologize without reservation for all the anger and pain caused. This event should not have taken place at the time it occurred. I am deeply sorry and I fully assume responsibility ”, said the former communication consultant.
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The permanent deputy secretary of Johnson’s Cabinet Office, Sue Gray, is due to conclude in a few days her internal investigation into prohibited parties held in government agencies, including the one in which Johnson has admitted his presence. Two more parties are now joining his investigations. And the prime minister’s nightmare may not end here. In a country accustomed to watering alcohol at the end of each working day, the vast Downing Street garden was the perfect excuse to turn long work meetings into a party with a clear conscience. This is how many of the participants saw it at that time, without understanding that they profoundly altered the norms that were severely required of the rest of the country. One rule for them, another for the rest. Each new information about the outrages of Downing Street during the lockdown plunges Johnson’s popularity further to the ground and brings closer the possibility of a rebellion among Conservative MPs that will end his leadership and his career as prime minister.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.