Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed that Number 10 staff held parties on the eve of Prince’s Philip’s funeral.
The gatherings were held in April 2021, and took place at a time when lockdown measures prohibited such parties and while the county was also in a period of mourning following the death of The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.
An enduring image from the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral was that of the Queen having to sit alone due to social distancing regulations.
At a glance: 5 key points
- Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed that two parties took place in Number 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
- The parties in question - held as leaving parties for Boris Johnson’s ex-director of communications James Slack and a Number 10 photographer - allegedly took place on 16 April 2021, when Covid restrictions prohibited such gatherings
- The two parties allegedly merged in the evening, with staff reportedly taking a suitcase to a nearby Co-op shop to buy more alcohol and others breaking a swing belonging to Mr Johnson’s son, Wilf, in the garden of Number 10
- It comes after allegations that multiple alleged gatherings were held during lockdown, one of which - held on 20 May 2020 - the Prime Minister admitted to attending as he issued an apology in PMQs earlier this week
- The scandal has led figures such as Sir Keir Starmer and Ian Blackford to call for the Prime Minister to resign, with some Tory MPs and senior politicians also joining the call
What did Downing Street say about the parties?
Anger has reached boiling point after staff in Number 10 were accused of holding parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
The Queen was forced to mourn the death of her husband alone during the service at St George’s Chapel on 17 April 2021 due to social distancing rules.
In an apology issued today, a spokesman for Downing Street said: “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologised to the Palace.
“You heard from the PM this week, he’s recognised No 10 should be held to the highest standards, and take responsibility for things we did not get right.”
Despite a spokesperson stating that an apology has been issued to Buckingham Palace, there has been no clarification on the details of the apology.
When asked why an apology was issued by Downing Street and not the Prime Minister himself, a spokesman said: “Well, again, the prime minister said earlier misjudgments have been made and it’s right people apologise, as the PM did earlier this week.
“It remains the case that I can’t prejudge the inquiry, which you know is ongoing, which has been led by Sue Gray, but we acknowledge the significant public anger, it was regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning.”
Mr Johnson is said to not have been present at Downing Street when the 16 April parties took place, instead being at his country residence, Chequers.
What happened at the parties?
Details emerged of two more alleged parties amid a flurry of alleged Number 10 gatherings which broke lockdown rules.
The first alleged party held on 16 April was a leaving part for Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, James Slack.
Mr Slack left his position in Downing Street to join The Sun newspaper as Deputy Editor, a role he still currently holds.
A Downing Street spokesperson said of Mr Slack’s event: “On this individual’s last day he gave a farewell speech to thank each team for the work they had done to support him, both those who had to be in the office for work and on a screen for those working from home.”
It is believed that this gathering eventually merged with another leaving party which was taking place for a personal photographer based inside Number 10.
As reported by The Daily Telegraph, witnesses recounted that guests drank alcohol and danced to music DJ’d by a special adviser.
It was also reported a staff member was sent to a local Co-op shop with a suitcase to purchase more alcohol for the party, with some guests allegedly breaking the the Prime Minister’s son’s swing in the back garden of Number 10.
The gathering is said to have taken place into the early hours of 17 April, the day of Prince Philip’s funeral.
Mr Slack appeared to confirm the reports after he apologised for the gathering.
In an emailed statement, he said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused. This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility.”
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