The apology, which stopped short of admitting wrongdoing, was Johnson's attempt to assuage a tide of anger from the public and politicians after repeated accusations he and his staff flouted pandemic restrictions by socializing when it was banned.
The most recent scandal could become a tipping point for a leader who has weathered a series of other storms, with some members of Johnson's Conservative Party saying he must quit if he broke the rules.
Trying to calm the furor, Johnson acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he went to a May 2020 garden party at his Downing Street office, though he said that he had considered it a work event to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I want to apologize. … With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside," Johnson told lawmakers during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons.
An invitation to “bring your own booze” to a “socially distanced drinks” gathering was emailed to about 100 government staff by a senior prime ministerial aide – though Johnson's office says he did not receive it.
Opponents and allies alike have been demanding Johnson come clean about the party, held when Britons were barred by law from meeting more than one person outside their households to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The gathering happened as millions were cut off from family and friends, and even barred from visiting dying relatives in hospitals.
Johnson said he understood the rage of people who “have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past 18 months ... at the thought that people in Downing Street were not following those rules” – though he didn’t explicitly admit that he had broken any rules.
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