LONDON — Boris Johnson’s Downing Street has apologized to Queen Elizabeth II following reports that his staff hosted two parties on the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral.
Witnesses told the Telegraph that No. 10 employees celebrated at two separate farewell parties on April 16 last year: one in the Downing Street basement, which included dancing to music played by a special adviser, and one in the garden to mark the departure of communications director James Slack.
On April 17, 2021, the queen attended her husband’s funeral alone while mourners were told not to leave flowers to avoid COVID-19 infections.
The prime minister’s spokesman told journalists: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place during a period of national mourning and No. 10 has apologized to the Palace.”
He added that Johnson had not been invited to the parties and had not been aware of them taking place before he left for Chequers, his country residence.
Slack, who is now deputy editor-in-chief of the Sun newspaper, has also apologized, saying he took “full responsibility” and was “deeply sorry.”
In an emailed statement issued by the Sun’s publisher, News UK, he added: “This event should not have happened at the time that it did.”
The Downing Street spokesman said no resignations had been tendered overnight and that it was “right to await the full findings” of an inquiry by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant.
Gray is investigating at least a dozen lockdown-busting bashes that the British prime minister and his staff are accused of having attended.
One staffer wheeled in a suitcase filled with booze to one of the April parties, according to the Telegraph’s account. Later both groups combined in the garden, where the party of around 30 people went on well beyond midnight.
An attendee broke the swing of Boris Johnson’s 1-year-old son Wilfred, the Telegraph reported.
“The Queen sat alone in mourning like so many did at the time with personal trauma & sacrifice to keep to the rules in the national interest. I have no words for the culture & behaviours at number 10 and the buck stops with the PM,” Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said on Twitter.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey renewed calls for Johnson’s resignation. “The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown. Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others. Whilst she mourned, Number 10 partied. Johnson must go,” he wrote on Twitter.
Esther Webber, Louis Westendarp