Skip to content

Lockdown party: PM's apology was 'heartfelt' says MP Shailesh Vara

North-West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara says Boris Johnson’s apology made in the House of Commons yesterday (January 12), for attending the lockdown party at No.10, was “heartfelt and wholesome”. 
MP Shailesh Vara says Boris Johnson's apology for attending lockdown party was "heartfelt" (Picture: Shariqua Ahmed)

There have been calls from all sides of the political spectrum asking Boris Johnson to resign after he admitted attending the No 10 lockdown garden party on May 20, 2020. 

On Wednesday, (January 12), Prime Minister, addressing the House of Commons before PMQ’s, offered an apology but said he thought it classified as a work event and therefore would fall within the rules.  

Beforehand MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow said he had no comment until the full details of the investigation were known, while North-West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara did not provide any comment before the time of publication.  

We asked both the Peterborough MPs these three questions: If the allegations are true, should Boris Johnson and indeed anyone else who attended resign? Does this mean that those who allegedly attended never really believed in the legitimacy of the lockdowns, and perhaps other measures? And isn't this insulting to those who did follow the rules during that lockdown, and indeed the subsequent ones and the Plan B restrictions?

He still has not responded or acknowledged our request, but last night Mr Vara gave an interview to BBC News at 9pm and said he thought the apology from Johnson was “wholesome and heartfelt”. 

The interview began with Mr Vara being asked, 'if he has ever gone into a pub, would he not be aware he is in one for 25 minutes?'

Hesaid: “No, I have always known when I have gone into the pub. I was in the chambers when the Prime Minister spoke.  

“I think the Prime Minister gave a heartfelt and wholesome apology. There was due recognition of the millions of people throughout the country who have suffered hugely and made sacrifices, who were unable to be with loved ones at their last moments, unable to attend funerals and so on. 

“He duly recognised the rage and anger of the people. There’s been a full and proper apology. We need to now wait for Sue Gray’s enquiry to be completed- let's not underestimate the enquiry. Sue Gray is a formidable civil servant and let’s not underestimate the enquiry.” 

The interviewer also said, looking at the little support for the Prime Minister at the house from even the frontbenchers - does he think he still has the support of his cabinet? 

Mr Vara said: “I would hope so otherwise they would be ex-cabinet ministers. 

“He appreciates the anger of the people in the country- he does recognise Number Ten is bound by the same rules as the rest of the country. Sue Gray is a formidable civil servant, she is not going to leave any stone unturned. We should recognise there has been a wholesome apology and we shouldn’t pre-judge the enquiry.” 

Following the Prime Minister’s apology, there have been calls from both opposition and his own party members, asking him to resign. 

His future is hanging in the balance as Cabinet ministers pleaded with Tory MPs to wait for the findings of an official investigation into Downing Street parties before calling for him to quit. 

He told the House of Commons: “With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them. 

“I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies. 

“All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.” 

He further added: “No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. 

“When I went into that garden just after six on May 20, 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.” 

The Guardian says his future is on a ‘knife’s-edge’, with some Conservative MPs openly calling for his resignation while others speak off-the-record. 

Senior Tory backbenchers William Wragg, Douglas Ross and Caroline Nokes have openly called for Mr Johnson’s resignation, while one Conservative told the paper he “didn’t apologise for what he did but for things that may or may not have happened which he officially knows nothing about until Sue Gray tells him about it”. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also called on the Prime Minister to resign.

He added: “The party’s over, Prime Minister.

“The only question is will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or will he do the decent thing and resign?”

The embattled Prime Minister also faced calls to quit from the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

Our latest poll asks what the people of Peterborough think of the situation, and can be found here