LONDON — Capping a week of abject contrition, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized at Buckingham Palace on Friday for the raucous parties held in Downing Street the night before Queen Elizabeth II buried her husband, Prince Philip. , in a socially distanced ceremony that left her grieving alone in a choir stall.
Mr Johnson, who apologized to Parliament on Wednesday for attending a garden party during a 2020 lockdown, was not present at either gathering. But reports of more alcohol-fueled socializing in Downing Street on the eve of a somber funeral ceremony remembered for its poignant image of an isolated, masked monarch dealt a further blow to an already Prime Minister shocked.
“It is deeply regrettable that this has taken place at a time of national mourning,” a Downing Street spokesman said as outrage at the parties mounted, “and No 10 apologized to the palace for it.”
Buckingham Palace, which has been preoccupied with a crisis of its own, declined to comment on the apology. The Queen on Thursday stripped her second son Prince Andrew of his military titles and royal charities after a New York judge ruled a sex abuse trial against him could go ahead.
The Downing Street spokesman did not say whether Mr Johnson planned to personally apologize to the Queen the next time he has a weekly audience with her. His display of remorse for the party in May 2020, however contrite, failed to calm the storm swirling around him, with opposition leaders and even a handful of Conservative Party lawmakers saying he should step down. .
“It shows how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister,” Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said in a statement. a post on Twitter. “An apology is not the only thing the prime minister should offer the palace today. Boris Johnson should do what is decent and step down.
The bacchanalian details of both parties on April 16, first reported in the Daily Telegraph, are startling. For one, the newspaper said, a staff member was dispatched to a nearby store to fill a suitcase with wine bottles. An assistant acted as a disc jockey, and revelers continued into the early hours of the morning, even breaking a swing used by Mr Johnson’s son Wilfred. Mr Johnson was away at the Prime Minister’s country residence, Checkers, at the time, officials said.
One of the events was a farewell party for a Downing Street press spokesman, James Slack, who left to become deputy editor of The Sun, one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids. The Sun reported on the party after its contestants broke it.
“I wish to apologize unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused,” Mr. Slack said in a statement on Friday. “This event should not have happened when it happened. I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility.
Shocked by the recent revelations, Mr Johnson has asked lawmakers to await the findings of an internal investigation of the parties by senior official Sue Gray. That isn’t expected until next week at the earliest, with rising expectations that Ms Gray will focus on drinking culture in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Understanding Boris Johnson’s recent troubles
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is seen as a potential successor to Mr Johnson, called on the public to move on. “He apologized,” she told reporters. “I think now we need to move on and talk about how we’re going to deal with the issues.”
But that seemed unlikely, especially given the tabloid-ready nature of the latest reports, which juxtaposed descriptions of raucous rejoicing in Downing Street with stark images of the bereaved Queen, isolated in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. . The funeral was so constrained by lockdown requirements that Mr Johnson himself gave up his place to allow an additional member of the Royal Family to attend.
In her annual Christmas speech, the Queen paid tribute to her late husband and lamented how the pandemic had interrupted holiday celebrations.
“Although Covid again means we can’t celebrate quite the way we would have liked,” she said, “we can still enjoy the many happy traditions.”