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Former Boris Johnson aide — now an editor at The Sun — apologizes as minister says he's 'shocked' by lockdown-breaking party held on eve of Prince Philip's funeral

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/14/2022 tcolson@businessinsider.com (Thomas Colson)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo © Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
  • A former Boris Johnson aide apologized for a party held in his honor in Downing Street during a national lockdown.
  • This is the first time James Slack, who is now an editor at British tabloid The Sun, has acknowledged the party. 
  • A minister said he was 'shocked' to learn of the party, which took place the day before the Queen sat alone at her husband Prince Philip's funeral.

Boris Johnson's former aide has apologized for the "anger and hurt" caused by a Downing Street party held for his departure from the government last year as a minister said he was "shocked" by the reports.

In new claims that put significantly more pressure on the prime minister, eyewitnesses told the Telegraph that Downing Street staff held two leaving parties on April 16, 2021, attended by around 30 people.

One of the events was held for James Slack, the prime minister's outgoing director of communications, who now serves as deputy editor-in-chief at British tabloid The Sun.

In a statement issued to the Press Association, Slack said: "I wish to apologize unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused. This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility."

This is the first time Slack has publicly acknowledged the event despite The Sun heavily reporting on the Downing Street scandals. 

Insider has reached out to Slack and The Sun for comment. 

Downing Street has not denied the allegations but told the Telegraph the prime minister was at his country residence when the events took place.

On Friday, Security minister Damian Hinds said he was "shocked" to read about reports of two further parties held at  Downing Street.


Video: UK PM Boris Johnson apologises for attending lockdown party (The Independent)

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They are likely to be added to a growing list of allegations investigated by Sue Gray, who is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into reports of multiple parties held at Downing Street and elsewhere.

"I was shocked to read it," Hinds told Sky News. "I have only just read it, it's just out in this morning's papers and we will have to see what comes out further in the investigation."

The timing of the alleged parties places even greater pressure on the prime minister, who earlier this week apologized for attending a different Downing Street drinks event.

Several Conservatives have called for the prime minister's resignation, including MP Andrew Bridgen, who submitted a letter of no-confidence in the prime minister on Thursday. In a tweet, he said: "I will always be grateful for what Boris has achieved and his legacy should be cemented now by a dignified exit from politics."

At one of the alleged parties in April, attendees drank excessive alcohol and danced in the basement of the building, the report said.

It was claimed that one person was sent to a nearby shop with a suitcase to be filled with bottles of wine.

One person reportedly broke a swing set belonging to Wilfred Johnson, the prime minister's son.

Prince Philip's funeral took place the next day at a chapel at Windsor Castle, where the Queen was photographed sitting alone in accordance with social distancing rules in place at the time.

Ruth Davidson, the Tory peer and former Scottish Conservatives leader, said: "Dozens of people in the basement with a DJ, dancing and a suitcase full of booze? I still can't conceive how anyone — anyone — thought any of this was OK. Especially when the rest of the country was doing their damndest to play by the rules, often at great personal cost."

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said she had "no words for the culture and behaviors" at Number 10.

  
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