Boris Johnson’s Downing Street staff hosted two parties on the night before Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral, the Telegraph reported, the latest in a list of at least a dozen lockdown-busting bashes that the British prime minister and his staff are accused of having attended.
On April 17, 2021, the Queen attended her husband’s funeral alone while mourners were told not to leave flowers to avoid COVID-19 infections. Yet on the night before, the atmosphere in Downing Street was much less somber.
Witnesses told the Telegraph there were initially two separate farewell parties: one in the Downing Street basement, which included dancing to music played by a special adviser, and one in the garden, where the departing director of communications James Slack — now a senior editor at the Sun newspaper — gave a farewell speech.
Slack apologized Friday morning for the “anger and hurt” the party had caused. He said he took “full responsibility” and was “deeply sorry.”
In an emailed statement issued by the Sun’s publisher, News UK, he added: “This event should not have happened at the time that it did.”
One staffer reportedly wheeled in a suitcase filled with booze that night. Later both groups conjoined in the garden, where the party of around 30 people went on well beyond midnight. An attendee broke the swing of Boris Johnson’s one-year-old son Wilf, the Telegraph reported.
A spokesperson for Johnson said he was not present at the parties and had left for his country residence Chequers the night before.
“The Queen sat alone in mourning like so many did at the time with personal trauma & sacrifice to keep to the rules in the national interest. I have no words for the culture & behaviours at number 10 and the buck stops with the PM,” Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said on Twitter.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey renewed calls for Johnson’s resignation. “The Queen sitting alone, mourning the loss of her husband, was the defining image of lockdown. Not because she is the Queen, but because she was just another person, mourning alone like too many others. Whilst she mourned, Number 10 partied. Johnson must go,” he wrote on Twitter.
Allegations of lockdown-breaching parties are being investigated internally by Sue Gray, a civil servant.
This article has been updated.