Boris Johnson has insisted he believed a gathering in No 10’s garden during the first lockdown would be a “work event” after being accused of lying to parliament by Dominic Cummings.
The Prime Minister was questioned during a visit to a hospital in north London, his first public appearance since last week.
At a glance 5 key points:
- Dominic Cummings claimed the Prime Minister lied to parliament about his knowledge of a lockdown gathering which took place in the garden of Number 10 on 20 May 2020
- Mr Johnson has insisted he believed it was a work event
- He told broadcasters at his first public appearance in a week he had not lied to parliament
- Mr Johnson has previously apologised for attending the gathering
- He has not been seen in public since last Thurday after a family member tested positive for Covid
What has Boris Johnson said?
Mr Johnson reduced his public contacts after Downing Street said a family member tested positive for coronavirus.
Despite official guidance no longer requiring vaccinated contacts of coronavirus cases to self-isolate, Mr Johnson pulled out of a visit last Thursday and had not been seen in public since.
“When I went out into that garden I thought I was attending a work event,” he told broadcasters.
Boris Johnson has denied lying to Parliament over allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.
Asked if he had, he told broadcasters: “No. I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.
“Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that … was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.”
Asked if he was “taking the mickey” over his claim that he believed the May 20, 2020 drinks were a work event, the Prime Minister said: “I think what people need to do is wait and see what the (Sue Gray) report says.
“I repeat my deep apologies to people for mistakes that may have been made on my watch.”
On a visit to a north London hospital, he said: “I repeat my apologies for any and all misjudgments that were made, for which I take full responsibility, but I think people do need to wait and see the conclusion of the report, and I will draw the necessary consequences and conclusions but then come back to the House.”
Mr Johnsappeared distressed as he faced questions about No 10 parties on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
He could be heard breathing heavily behind his mask as he told reporters: “I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened.
“I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgments that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.”
What had Dominic Cummings said about the claims?
It comes after Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings said the Prime Minister misled parliament over claims he was under the impression the garden gathering was a “work event”.
Mr Cummings made the claim that Mr Johnson and his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, who sent an email invite to around 100 guests to attend a “bring your own booze” gathering on 20 May 2020, were not only told that the gathering was against the rules by a “very senior official” but approved the gathering to go ahead after being warned.
Mr Cummings said despite the alarm being raised by himself and others, Mr Johnson and Mr Reynolds agreed the event should still go ahead.
In his blog he said: “Is the PM going to claim that a) his PPS told him ‘PM this is a work meeting’ and b) after he walked around the garden talking to people standing around drinking, ‘Sue, honestly, I swear to you I thought it was a work meeting’?!”
The former aide then claimed the Prime Minister had misled parliament and MPs by telling them he was under the impression the gathering in question was a “work event”.
He said: “The events of 20 May alone, never mind the string of other events, mean the PM lied to Parliament about parties.”
What has Mr Johnson said about calls for him to resign?
Mr Johnson has refused to be drawn on whether he would resign if he was found to have misled Parliament over a No 10 drinks party during lockdown.
Speaking during a pooled broadcast clip during a visit to a north London hospital, the Prime Minister said it was important to wait for the findings of an inquiry by the senior civil servant Sue Gray.
“We’ll have to see what she says. I think that she should be given the space to get on and conclude her inquiry,” he said.
“I would urge everybody who has knowledge of this, memories of this, to tell her what they know.
“Let’s see what the report says.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has reiterated her call for Mr Johnson to resign following his latest comments on the No 10 drinks party.
“Boris Johnson clearly knows it’s the end of the road,” she said.
“He’s the Prime Minister, he set the rules, he didn’t need anyone to tell him that the party he attended broke them.
“If he had any respect for the British public, he would do the decent thing and resign.”
This article will continue to be updated throughout the day
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