But appearing in public for the first time after days of self-isolation from Covid, Johnson also dodged questions about whether he would resign if an internal investigation establishes he lied.
Johnson is fighting damaging allegations that he and his staff attended events with alcohol during Covid restrictions, prompting an investigation by official Sue Gray.
The revelations have unleashed public fury, leading to a double-digit lead in the polls for the main opposition Labor party over Johnson’s Conservatives, and calls from some Tories for him to resign.
Johnson apologized for a May 20, 2020, Downing Street garden party, telling parliament last week that he thought it was a “work event”, despite an attendee inviting staff to “bring their own drink.
But his combative former senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who has been waging a vendetta against Johnson since he left Downing Street in late 2020, said he warned his then-boss about the event at the time.
“I can tell you categorically that no one told me, no one said that this was something that was against the rules, that it was a violation of the Covid rules, that this was something that was not a work event,” Johnson said.
– ‘Madhouse’ –
“Frankly, I can’t imagine why on earth it would have been allowed to go ahead,” he told reporters on a visit to a London hospital.
Head bowed in remorse, Johnson also renewed his office’s apology to Queen Elizabeth II after it emerged that his staff held farewell parties during the national mourning for her husband, Prince Philip, in April 2021.
Johnson’s denials have been carefully worded, appearing to exempt him from any personal blame, even if staff have done wrong, and are based on a limited exemption for work meetings during closures.
But in the latest in an incendiary series of blog posts, Cummings wrote that he told Johnson that Downing Street was turning into a drunken “insane asylum.” The prime minister “gestures to the side,” he said.
“The events of May 20 alone, regardless of the series of other events, mean that the prime minister lied to Parliament about the parties,” Cummings said, adding that he was ready to swear his version “under oath.”
Cummings would give testimony to Gray as part of his investigation, British media reported.
Six Conservatives have openly called for Johnson’s resignation, though more are reported to have done so in private.
It takes 54 letters from Conservative MPs to trigger a no-confidence vote, indicating that voters made their feelings about Johnson known to their local representatives over the weekend, and not in a positive way.
Asked if he would quit, Johnson said, “We’ll have to see what she (Gray) says.
“I reiterate my deep apologies to the people for the mistakes that may have been made during my term,” he said.
– ‘Question of resignations’ –
Johnson’s senior ministerial colleagues have largely joined him, urging the public to await the conclusions of the Gray investigation, which is expected in the coming days.
But Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, admitted that a proven lie by a minister “normally, under the ministerial code and the governance around parliament, would be a matter of resignation.”
And in his first on-camera comments on the revelations, powerful finance minister Rishi Sunak said “the ministerial code is clear on these matters.”
“I fully support the prime minister’s request for patience while this investigation continues,” said Sunak, who is emerging as a strong contender to replace Johnson in any leadership race.
When asked if the prime minister had his unequivocal support, Sunak interrupted the interview and left with the microphone still on.
The opposition Labor Party was unequivocal in reaffirming its demands that Johnson stop following Cummings’ blog.
“Boris Johnson clearly knows this is the end of the road,” said Labor deputy chief Angela Rayner.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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