AOn Friday Boris Johnson once again apologized for a party at his official residence – this time with the Queen. Although a government spokesman did not say who delivered the apology and in what form, it is believed that the prime minister personally intervened. It had previously become known that his former head of communications, James Slack, gave a farewell party in his office on April 16 last year – the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral. Slack also apologized Friday “unreservedly for the upset and pain this has caused.”
The party, which is said to have taken place without Johnson, is said to have lasted into the morning with music and dancing. An employee apparently fetched alcohol supplies from a supermarket with a suitcase. The feast — as well as another celebration at another office — is now also part of the investigation, which is being led by officer Sue Gray.
At the time of the party, the country was in national mourning and lockdown rules were strict. The Queen sat alone in the pew of Windsor Castle Chapel the next morning – her children and grandchildren had been seated at a safe distance – and said goodbye to her husband. The image of the lonely mourners had often been recalled in recent weeks and highlighted as a counter-example to the behavior of Johnson and his staff.
Wine, cheese and “beautiful weather”
The party spans the round of alcohol-fueled gatherings in the government district for almost twelve months. In political London there is now talk of a “culture problem”. The first known meeting of this kind was documented by a photo. It shows Johnson and his wife sitting with staff in the Downing Street garden. Wine and cheese are on the tables. Johnson said of that meeting on May 15, 2020, “These people were at work and they were talking about work.”
At that time, at the end of the first lockdown, it was forbidden to meet more than one person from another household. On May 20, around 30 employees accepted an invitation sent by Johnson’s personal assistant to more than 100 colleagues. You should take advantage of the “beautiful weather” and bring your own alcohol. Johnson said he was there for 25 minutes and felt like he was attending a “work meeting”. Nevertheless, he apologized on Wednesday for “not having sent the employees back to the house”.
After easing in the summer, the measures were tightened again in autumn 2020. On November 13, associates and friends reportedly met with the Prime Minister’s wife at the Johnsons’ private home; that is denied. Two weeks later, employees were having drinks in a colleague’s office and Johnson reportedly gave a speech. A Advent party was held at the Ministry of Education on December 10th and a celebration at Tory headquarters on December 14th. A photo was taken on Dec. 15 showing Johnson between two employees as they host an online Christmas quiz.
Three days later, the party that triggered the inquiry took place in Downing Street. After reports of the party were initially denied, a video circulated showing staff members joking about the “wine and cheese” night four days later. Johnson then expressed “angry” and gave the impression of not knowing anything about the party.