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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life. He was forced to apologize to Parliament Wednesday after it was revealed he attended a cocktail party in the garden of his official residence at the height of the COVID crisis when strict nationwide restrictions were in force. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from the United Kingdom.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life.
He was forced to apologize to Parliament today, after it was revealed that he attended a cocktail party in the garden of his official residence at the height of the COVID crisis in mid-2020, when strict nationwide restrictions were enforced.
From the United Kingdom, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
Never before in the 2.5 years of his turbulent premiership has Boris Johnson faced such heat over his integrity.
He headed to Parliament to explain why a cocktail party was held in the garden of 10 Downing Street in May 2020, when Britons faced heavy fines for breaching lockdown rules.
Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister:
Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize.
I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives. 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 not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
Riding high in the polls, opposition leader Keir Starmer went for the jugular.
Keir Starmer, Labor Party Leader:
Well, there we have it, after months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who's 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.
Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
In May 2020, the death rate for COVID was rising exponentially, and no cure was in sight.
As a consequence of stringent lockdown restrictions, victims died alone in hospital, and funerals were sparsely attended because of enforced social distancing.
At the time of the Downing Street party, Lindsay Jackson was grieving for her mother, who died from COVID.
Lindsay Jackson, Bereaved Families For Justice:
My mom was a very popular woman. There would have been hundreds of people who wanted to say goodbye to her. And there was seven of us. And I couldn't even hug my brother after the funeral.
I want him gone. I want — I want politicians I can respect.
Analysts say that, while Johnson apologized for the public perception of wrongdoing, he did not admit breaking the law.
And when I went into that garden just after 6:00 on the 20th of May, 2020, to thank groups of staff, before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
Johnson is awaiting the outcome of a civil service investigation into the cocktail party.
Some elements of his governing Conservative Party are concerned that he's become a liability. The party is lagging in the polls, and it's merciless about getting rid of prime ministers considered to be toxic in the public consciousness. Johnson's position has never been more precarious.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Brighton.
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Malcolm Brabant is a special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.
Morgan Till is the Senior Producer for Foreign Affairs and Defense (Foreign Editor) at the PBS NewsHour, a position he has held since late 2015. He was for many years the lead foreign affairs producer for the program, traveling frequently to report on war, revolution, natural disasters and overseas politics. During his seven years in that position he reported from – among other places - Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Haiti, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and widely throughout Europe.
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