UK's Johnson apologises for attending lockdown party

AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for attending a lockdown party at his official residence during Britain's first coronavirus lockdown, as opponents said he should resign.

Johnson admitted for the first time that he had attended the party at 10 Downing Street in May 2020 when COVID-19 rules limited social gatherings to a bare minimum, saying he understood public anger.

"I know the rage they feel with me over the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules," an ashen-faced Johnson told parliament.

"I offer my heartfelt apologies," he said.

Johnson said he regretted his action and had thought the gathering was a work event - drawing jeers and laughter from opposition lawmakers.

"I went into that garden just after six on the 20th of May 2020 to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working," Johnson said.

"With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside."

Leaders of all the main opposition parties called for his resignation, while the Conservatives' leader in Scotland became the first figure in his party to say Johnson should now quit.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the public - who handed Johnson a landslide election victory in December 2019 after he promised to secure Britain's exit from the European Union - thought him a liar.

"The party's over, prime minister," Starmer told him.

"After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defence that he didn't realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British public."

More from International

  • At least 41 killed in Egypt church fire

    At least 41 people were killed and 45 injured in a fire inside a church in the Egyptian city of Giza on Sunday.

  • Fireworks explode in Armenian mall

    Blasts ripped through a fireworks warehouse in a shopping mall in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sunday, killing one and injuring at least 45 people, Russian news agencies cited the Armenian emergencies ministry as saying.

  • US lawmakers touch down in Taiwan

    A U.S. lawmaker delegation arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a two-day visit during which they will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, the second high-level group to come amid continued military tensions with the island's giant neighbour China.

  • Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport

    Australian capital Canberra's airport was evacuated and a man arrested after gunshots were heard in the main terminal building, police said on Sunday.

  • Ukraine targets soldiers threatening nuclear plant

    Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian soldiers who shoot at Europe's largest nuclear power station or use it as a base to shoot from that they will become a "special target" for Ukrainian forces.