Boris Johnson has apologised after admitting that he attended a Downing Street garden drinks party during the first lockdown.
Addressing the Commons under intense pressure from MPs, including those on his own government benches, to confirm whether he attended a drinks gathering at Number 10 on 20 May 2020, the prime minister said he had “learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right”.
“I want to apologise,” Mr Johnson said, adding that he “must take responsibility” for events that took place.
The prime minister admitted he “went into that garden just after 6pm on 20 May 2020 to thank groups of staff” before going back into his office “25 minutes later”.
“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he told the Commons.
The PM continued: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.”
Responding to the prime minister’s admission, Sir Keir Starmer called for Mr Johnson to “do the decent thing and resign”, branding his defence as “so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British people”.
“There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road,” the Labour leader said.
“The party is over prime minister.”
Downing Street had previously refused to say if Mr Johnson was present at the event which Sky News understands he and his now wife attended along with around 40 others at a time when such gatherings were banned.
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The PM reiterated that it is a matter for Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating a series of reported parties in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall over the course of 2020, to determine the exact details of what happened.
“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,” Mr Johnson told the Commons.
“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 continued: “I should have recognised that even if it 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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sky News Mr Johnson’s position as PM is “completely untenable” as he “not only broke the rules, but he’s lied to the British public”.
The Liberal Democrats had this morning called for the prime minister to resign, saying he has “become a threat to the health of our nation”.
Some Conservative MPs have publicly expressed their frustrations at Mr Johnson’s failure to address the allegations until now, with Paymaster General Michael Ellis sent to respond on his behalf to an emergency Commons question on the issue on Tuesday.
Speaking to Kay Burley, senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood called on Mr Johnson to “act now and apologise for Number 10’s poor judgement”.
Another Conservative, Christian Wakeford, who represents the former “red wall” seat Bury South, said the reports of the 20 May Downing Street party are “indefensible” and “embarrassing”.
On Tuesday, two opinion polls suggested the public was turning on the PM, amid increasing anger at the claims.
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