Boris Johnson appears to be reassured by Liz Truss after PMQs
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After mounting pressure to come clean over his attendance of a COVID-19 rule-busting bash on May 20, 2020, Mr Johnson told Prime Minister’s Questions that he was at the party for “2 minutes” to thank staff for their hard work, before heading back to his office. But as soon as the Prime Minister ended his grovelling apology, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appeared to take Mr Johnson’s arm and give his leg a “reassuring squeeze” and shake in an apparent show of support.
Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to apologise. I know that lots of people across this country have made sacrifices…
“I know the rage they feel with me and the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being followed.”
He claimed that while “I cannot anticipate the conclusion of the current inquiry”, which is being run by senior civil servant Sue Gray who will investigate the May 20 incident alongside an alleged six other rule-breaking parties, he has “learned enough to know there were things we did not get right and I must take responsibility.”
The Prime Minister went on to admit he was in fact present at the rule-breaking party, revealing: “No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.
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“When I went into that garden on May 20 to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 2 minutes later to continue working.”
But in a comment which appeared to anger the Commons, he said that he “believed this was a work event” but conceded that “with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside”.
He also added that he “should have found another way to thank them”.
But taking his seat following the admission, Sky News’ Jayne Secker noted how she had spotted Ms Truss lean over to give Mr Johnson support as she appeared to “give him a reassuring squeeze to the leg” and shake his arm, as well as look into his eyes as a beleaguered Prime Minister gathered himself.
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Justice Secretary Dominic Raab could also be seen leaning in offering his own support.
But while Mr Johnson’s speech may have convinced his front bench, it did not convince the leader of the opposition.
Taking to the dispatch box, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer savaged Mr Johnson as “pathetic” following the apology and demanded his resignation.
In a simmering shot across the dispatch box, Sir Keir hammered: “Well there we have it! After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road!”
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He went on to claim Mr Johnson’s defence that he “didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British public”.
He added: “He has finally admitted to what everyone knew! That when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street.”
Sir Keir concluded by calling on Mr Johnson to “do the decent thing and resign” as he closed his simmering attack.
The saga erupted after an email sent by the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary, Martin Reynolds, which was leaked to ITV News, invited over 100 Downing Street staffers to a “socially distanced drinks” party in the Downing Street garden and encouraged punters to “bring your own booze” despite Government rules at the time stating you could only meet one other person outside of your household.
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