Boris Johnson didn’t provide ‘enough context’ in apology, says ex-advisor Guto Harri
Boris Johnson did not provide “enough context” in his apology for attending a boozy Downing Street party during lockdown, according to his former PR advisor.
Welsh broadcaster Guto Harri, who was director of external affairs for the Tory Prime Minister while he was Mayor of London, argued No 10 staff were “working extremely hard”, and argued that what they did was “unforgivable, but some would say it’s understandable”.
The Y Byd yn ei Le journalist made the comments during an interview for the Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo on CNN.
His interviewer replied that she could not “imagine a bunch of nurses and doctors” doing the same by “having a little party with some booze”, adding “I really don’t know why people who work in government long hours should be doing it”.
Conservative insiders have been briefing that a confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s premiership is imminent, as his authority drains away.
Multiple Tories briefed STV that the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs was close to the 54 letters needed to trigger such a vote, which Boris Johnson is expected to fight.
During the interview, Bianca Nobilo asked: “Do you think this is the most vulnerable the Prime Minister has ever been?”
Guto Harri told CNN: “It’s an extremely toxic issue. It resonates across the United Kingdom. It has caused enormous anxiety and unease on the benches behind him in the British Parliament, and very senior people across his party are now questioning whether he is the right man to take them into the next General Election.
“So, to put it in a nutshell, he is over the next few days fighting for his political life.”
Bianca Nobilo said: “Let’s talk about that apology. I’m going to put the word apology in quote marks because to me it sounded like one of those apologies where you just say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to go the whole hog and give the full apology’. You have been a government advisor to Boris Johnson. You know communications. What was your reading of it?
‘I can see why people say that’
“I can see why people say that, but to me, and I’ve heard him apologise many times under repeated attacks and questioning. It was heartfelt, He meant it. He expressed real remorse, real regret. He wishes this had not happened, and it’s a very rare thing in any country for a politician of that seniority, you know, a leader of a country to actually apologise at all.
“So in that sense I think he was sincere and heartfelt and I think it has taken some of the sting out of the of this and given him a little bit of breathing space.
“But he did not I suspect provide enough context, enough explanation. I wouldn’t even try to justify this point, but enough explanation of the context in which in this had happened. So he’s not out of the woods yet, and maybe in trouble on an ongoing basis.
He added: “People have suffered enormous pain, and grief and absence and loneliness over the last few years, and that was because of very specific prescriptive rules agreed in No 10 Downing Street and on the Conservative benches in the British Parliament. So then to discover that the people applying those rules to others were not abiding by them themselves is extremely offensive and that’s why this thing resonates so loudly.
“Now the only thing that can be said, and it’s not a justification, but people you know when you do provide a context that these were people who were going into work, working night and day, trying to roll out you know support schemes for businesses, trying to get a vaccine programme off the ground.
“They’re working extremely hard. They didn’t exactly get in a cab and charge off to a party. They were at their place of work in the first place and yes they did go out and socialise afterwards. It’s unforgivable, but some would say it’s understandable, and over time he has to hope that the British public with get that context.
“I’m not sure. Some people will never forgive him. But if his party give him another shot then by the next General Election in tow or three years time I think even that party will have been long forgotten.”
Bianca Nobilo replied: “Yeah, I mean I understand the attempt to be reasonable there, but I just can’t imagine a bunch of nurses and doctors from inside a hospital congregating, 30 of them outside in the parking area, having a little party with some booze. So I really don’t know why people who work in government long hours should be doing it.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.