Johnson sorry for partygate scandal as calls to quit mount

LONDON (AFP) – United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday apologised for attending a lockdown-breaching party held in his Downing Street garden, but deflected calls to resign as the opposition leader called him a “man without shame”.

After days of dismal headlines and collapsing poll ratings, Johnson said he regarded the newly revealed get-together in May 2020 as a work event for Downing Street staff. He conceded he did not appreciate how the event would look to millions of Britons who were respecting COVID rules, even missing out on farewells to dying relatives.

“And to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies,” Johnson told a stormy session of questions in the House of Commons.

“With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them (his staff),” he added, admitting he had been present for about 25 minutes.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour party, said the public believed Johnson was “lying through his teeth. The only question is will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or will he do the decent thing and resign?”

“The prime minister’s a man without shame,” Starmer added, for the first time joining other opposition leaders in demanding Johnson’s ouster.

Johnson – who was fired twice in previous jobs for lying to his bosses – had managed to weather one of the world’s worst COVID death tolls thanks to a successful mass vaccination campaign, and his record as the leader who effected Britain’s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

A protestors holds a placard at Parliament Square in London. PHOTO: AP