Downing Street has apologised to Buckingham Palace for hosting two staff leaving dos the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
No.10 is embroiled in further scandal this morning after it emerged that two leaving parties were held for staff on April 16, 2021, when the UK was under Covid restrictions which banned indoor mixing between households.
Images of the Queen mourning Prince Philip alone sparked a renewed sense of public anger and demands for an apology from Downing Street, which it has now issued.
Speaking to reporters, the prime minister’s deputy spokesman said it was “deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No.10 has apologised to the palace”.
“You’ve heard from the PM this week, he’s recognised No.10 should be held to the highest standards, and taking responsibility for things we did not get right,” he said.
Asked why it was an apology from Downing Street rather than Boris Johnson himself, the spokesman replied: “Again, the prime minister said earlier that misjudgments have been made, and it’s right people apologise as the PM did earlier this week.
“It remains the case I can’t prejudge the inquiry, which you know is ongoing which is being led by Sue Gray, but we acknowledge the significant public anger.
“It was regrettable this took place a time of national mourning.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, which first reported the allegations, staff stocked up with a “suitcase of wine” ahead of another round of boozy parties when Covid restrictions were in place on April 17.
The revelling carried on into the early hours of the morning with one attendee allegedly breaking a swing belonging to the prime minister’s son Wilfred.
The parties were to mark the departures of James Slack, Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the PM’s personal photographers, the newspaper said. Slack apologised this morning for the “anger and hurt” caused by the party.
The spokesman confirmed that Johnson was neither invited to nor attended the events on April 16 because he was away at his country residence in Chequers.
Asked whether Johnson knew whether the parties were taking place, the spokesman would only say that the PM was not in No.10 on April 16, and that he was unable to comment while an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray was ongoing.
It has been reported that Gray — who is holding an inquiry into the parties that are alleged to have taken place in Downing Street during the pandemic — will also look at the events of April 16 as part of her investigation.
Slack, who was appointed deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper last year, 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.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the apology to the palace “shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister”.
“The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the Prime Minister should be offering the palace today.
“Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.”