Downing Street apologises to queen for two parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

Former head of government unit ‘truly sorry’ for another lockdown breach at the top of the British government

Downing Street has apologised to Queen Elizabeth for two parties on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral amid reports of further lockdown breaches at the top of the British government.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the apology was sent to Buckingham Palace after the Daily Telegraph reported that two parties were held at Downing Street on the night of April 16th last year.

At the time up to six people were allowed to meet outdoors and indoor gatherings were banned. The queen sat alone at her husband’s funeral the following day, in line with social distancing guidelines.

One of the parties was to say farewell to Mr Johnson's former director of communications James Slack and the other was for a departing in-house photographer. Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor of the Sun, apologised on Friday morning 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,” he said.

Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie were at Chequers at the time of the parties, but his spokesman declined to say when the prime minister found out about them.

According to the Telegraph the two parties were in different parts of 10 Downing Street, but they merged late in the night when they spilled out into the garden.

The paper said that one of the attendees went out to a nearby convenience store with a suitcase which was then filled with bottles of wine and that another sat on a swing used by Mr Johnson’s son Wilf and broke it.

“It is deeply regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning, and No 10 has apologised to the palace,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said.

Drinks party

Later on Friday, the former head of the government unit responsible for drawing up coronavirus restrictions confirmed that she had had a drinks party when she left her post in December 2020, when the country was again under strict lockdown. Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said in a statement that she was "truly sorry" for holding the party.

“I have been co-operating fully with the Cabinet Office investigations, and I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation. The specific facts of this event will be considered in the context of the Cabinet Office investigation. And I did not attend any events at Number 10 Downing Street,” she said.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said Downing Street's apology for the parties on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral was not enough, and he repeated his call for the prime minister to resign.

"This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of prime minister. The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn't the only thing the prime minister should be offering the palace today. Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign."

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times