LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (AP pic below) on Monday apologised after his government was criticised for “failures of leadership and judgement” in allowing lockdown-breaching parties at his offices.
Johnson’s position has been hanging by a thread because of the steady drip of revelations since late last year, but he has in the last week been given a lifeline as police stepped in.
“I’m sorry for the things that we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way this matter has been handled,” Johnson told MPs in Parliament.
He vowed “to get on with the job” despite widespread political and public anger and calls for him to quit or be forced out.
“I get it and I will fix it,” he added, promising sweeping changes to his Downing Street operation following criticism about lack of accountability and managerial oversight.
The police probe meant that senior civil servant Sue Gray was forced to avoid going into detail in a long-awaited report about 16 events held in 2020 and last year, so as not to prejudice the Scotland Yard inquiry.
But Gray still managed a stinging rebuke to the prime minister’s authority, contrasting government officials’ behaviour with the sacrifices made by the public during the pandemic.
“Too little thought” had been given about how appropriate events were and would be seen as others stuck to the rules, unable to comfort sick and dying loved ones with COVID.
“There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 (Downing Street) and the Cabinet Office at different times,” Gray wrote in her 12-page report.
“Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”
Gray questioned more than 70 individuals and examined emails, WhatsApp and text messages, photos and Downing Street’s entry and exit logs.