U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized to the House of Commons on Wednesday as revelations about his attendance at a Downing Street party in May 2020, when many of Britain's strict lockdown rules were in place, are leading to mounting pressure for him to resign amid a wave of public anger.

"Mr. Speaker I want to apologize, I know millions of people across the country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or do the things they love," a somber Johnson said at Prime Minister's Questions.


In this grab taken from video, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement ahead of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday,  Jan. 12, 2022.  (House of Commons/PA via AP)

"And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the rules are now being properly followed by the people who make the rules," he said.

Johnson, who spent most of 2021 with strong approval ratings over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and an efficient vaccine rollout, has started 2022 staring down the scandal dubbed "Partygate" and has sparked fury from politicians and members of the public alike who were urged by Johnson to make sacrifices to protect the British healthcare system as the COVID-19 pandemic ripped through the country.

The scandal began when ITV reported on a May 2020 email from a senior Johnson aide inviting government staff to a "bring your own booze" event in Downing Street, which the invite claimed was "socially distanced." 

"Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening," it said. "Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!"

The party was held at a time when Brits, in rules imposed by the Johnson government and enforced by police, were barred from meeting more than one person outside their households and many "non-essential" businesses were locked down.

Johnson had previously claimed he had no knowledge of any such parties, but on Wednesday he admitted he had attended for 25 minutes -- although he claimed that he did not know that it was a work event, which drew howls of outrage from opposition from lawmakers.

It is the latest in a number of allegations of members of his government – including Johnson himself -- or staff flouting the rules that itself was so vigorous in placing on its fellow citizens. Brits have been sharing stories in recent days about how they weren’t allowed to visit dying relatives, missed funerals and were cut off from family members. 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions in London, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.  (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer cited some of those stories to Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, and ripped into the embattled Tory leader -- mocking the "pathetic spectacle of a man who has finally run out of road."

"He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street," he said. "Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?"


Johnson repeated his apology but said that Starmer should not preempt the outcome of an ongoing inquiry into the matter being led by a senior civil servant.

Johnson’s Conservative Party holds an 80-seat majority in the chamber, meaning he is unlikely to be defeated by a motion of no confidence there. But if the scandal rumbles on and threatens to hurt the party's electoral chances, more of his own party's lawmakers could force him out, as they have done with many past prime ministers.


A YouGov poll this week found that 56% of all Brits think Johnson should resign and only 27% think he should stay in Downing Street. Among conservative voters, a slim majority (52%) thought he should stay in office.

On Tuesday, Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross told Sky News that "if the prime minister has misled parliament, then he must resign."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.