- Boris Johnson’s spokesman has apologised for denying there were rule-breaking parties in No 10.
- His apology came after Sue Gray’s partygate report confirmed details of multiple events.
- The spokesman also admitted a Downing Street official saw the report a day ahead of its publication.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman has issued a personal apology for not telling the truth to journalists about Downing Street parties.
In a briefing with reporters on Thursday morning, the senior civil servant, who is not named by convention, apologised for repeated denials that rules were broken.
“There were failings both in terms of what happened, and how it was handled subsequently,” he said. “The Prime Minister’s apologised for that, and obviously, I am happy to apologise for that as well.”
The apology came after the Wednesday publication of a report by senior civil servant Sue Gray into multiple parties, collectively known as partygate. The report detailed how excess drinking led to vomiting, fighting, and the breaking of a child’s swing in events at the heart of the British government.
In briefings to journalists in early December after initial reports of lockdown breaching parties were published, the spokesman, along with the Prime Minister’s press secretary, a political appointee, repeatedly denied any rules had been broken.
At the time, the spokesman insisted it was a “statement of fact” no rules were broken.
Asked Thursday if he had attended any of the events listed in Gray’s report, the spokesman repeatedly declined to comment.
He also declined to say if he had received any fines from the Metropolitan Police for a breach of coronavirus regulations, or if he was under disciplinary action for a potential breach of the civil service code.
“I understand the interest, but I am here to answer questions on behalf of the Prime Minister,” he said. “I am not here to talk about myself as an individual. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment.”
But, during the same briefing, the spokesman admitted that a senior member of the Downing Street staff had “prior sight of elements of the report, as part of their responsibilities related to staff welfare”.
No parts of the report were changed, he added.
Johnson was repeatedly asked this same question on Wednesday, telling journalists only that he had first seen the report “in its entirety” once the Cabinet Office had formally submitted it that morning.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Labour MP Angela Eagle asked whether the unnamed staff member was Steve Barclay, Johnson’s chief of staff and Cabinet Office minister.