Boris Johnson has denied lying to parliament about a gathering in No 10’s garden during the first lockdown despite Dominic Cummings saying he would swear on oath that he warned the prime minister it would be a rule-breaking drinks party.
In a major interview, Johnson said he had told the Whitehall inquiry into the allegations that to the “best of my recollection” ahead of the 20 May 2020 event “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules”.
The prime minister said that he does “humbly apologise to people for misjudgments that were made” after facing calls to resign over the partygate affair, including from six Tory MPs.
He made his first public appearance after reducing his contacts from when No 10 said a family member tested positive for Covid-19 last week, as chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to give the prime minister his unequivocal backing. (See 12.53pm.)
Asked if he had lied to parliament over the parties during a visit to a north London hospital, Johnson said: “No. I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.
“Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that … was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.”
Johnson said he “could not imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead, or why it would’ve been allowed to go ahead” if he had been told it was not a “work event”.
“I do humbly apologise to people for misjudgments that were made but that is the very, very best of my recollection about this event, that’s what I’ve said to the inquiry,” he said.