Boris Johnson’s ex-communications chief apologises for Downing Street lockdown party on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

The prime minister’s former director of communications has apologised “unreservedly” for a party held to mark his departure from Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

In a statement released on Friday morning, James Slack said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused” by the gathering on 16 April, which is said to have involved 30 Downing Street staff partying into the early hours at Number 10 at a time when indoor mixing was banned.

“This event should not have happened at the time that it did. I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility,” Mr Slack, who last year left Downing Street to become deputy editor-in-chief at The Sun newspaper, said.

The events – which according to the original report in The Telegraph included people drinking and dancing to music and one attendee being sent shopping with a suitcase to fill with bottles of wine – occurred the night before the Queen was forced to sit by herself at her husband’s funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

On Thursday evening, Number 10 failed to deny the allegations.

Follow latest updates as new party allegations emerge

Speaking to Sky News this morning, a minister admitted to being “shocked to read” the reports.

Security minister Damian Hinds said he did not know many details of the alleged events as the story has only just broken, but added: “If the details that are in this story turn out to be true, clearly people are going to form their judgement.”

Mr Hinds said “action can be taken” against any individuals found to have committed wrongdoing by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is carrying out an investigation into parties held in Downing Street and elsewhere across Whitehall.

The fresh claims that will further fuel the “partygate” crisis threatening the prime minister’s political future, with another Conservative MP – Andrew Bridgen – now demanding the PM’s resignation.

But the security minister told Sky News he has confidence in Mr Johnson as Conservative Party leader.

“I am entirely behind the Prime Minister and the Government, and I think the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown, particularly through the coronavirus, has been very strong,” Mr Hinds said.

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