The prime minister began PMQs on Wednesday by offering his “heartfelt apologies” for attending a drinks party in No.10′s garden for 25 minutes in May 2020, when the country was under Covid lockdown rules.
He said that, “with hindsight”, he should broken the party up and recognised the general public would have been furious with him – but he maintained that he thought it was a “work event” and therefore, within the rules in place at the time.
Sent out to bat for the prime minister during the morning media round, it wasn’t long before the Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis was put on the spot by journalist Nick Robinson over the exact wording of Johnson’s apology.
He asked: “Why does [Boris Johnson] need hindsight, Mr Lewis?
“What part of him did not understand, when he saw a garden full of people carrying bottles of wine and eating food off a trestle table, what part of the leader of our country did not think, as people were cowering within their homes, as people are dying in hospitals, as loved ones are unable to touch their own relatives and parents, what part of the leader of our country did not recognise that that was inappropriate?”
Lewis replied: “First of all, I wasn’t there.
″I don’t know the details, I’ve seen what’s been reported.
“I’m going to wait and see the details of Sue Gray’s investigation.”
This is the line taken by both Johnson himself and the other members of cabinet who have defended him.
Gray is the top civil servant who has been tasked with investigating all of the alleged parties said to have taken place in No.10 throughout 2020, when the government had put strict measures in place to reduce socialising.
Robinson was also quick to analyse Johnson’s apology on Wednesday, tweeting: “Very striking that @BorisJohnson speaks again and again of ‘mistakes made’ & ‘mistakes we made’ but he can’t bring himself to add the word ‘I’.
“Begs the question – is he apologising for his behaviour, that of his staff or just how things look?”