Watch: Welsh Secretary’s uncomfortable TV grilling on Boris Johnson’s ‘apology’
The Westminster-appointed Welsh Secretary faced an uncomfortable TV grilling las night about Boris Johnson’s “apology” amid a partygate scandal.
Simon Hart appeared to struggle to answer when he was repeatedly asked by BBC presenter Fiona Bruce on Question Time whether the Tory Prime Minster had apologised for attending the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street.
Johnson is facing calls to quit after attending the party at the No 10 garden during the first coronavirus lockdown in May 2020, when the public was banned from household mixing.
In his statement to the Commons he claimed that he had believed it to be a work event, and was “technically within the rules” but added that he should have realised how it would look to the public.
“Was he apologising for going to the party or not? Yes or no?”
“He was apologising for the whole sequence of events.”
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) January 13, 2022
Simon Hart said: “Anybody who knows the PM or who saw that and actually heard the words that he uttered yesterday, I genuinely don’t think could be anything other than convinced that was heartfelt, that was a genuine apology.”
‘So what do you think he was apologising for?’
Fiona Bruce said: “So what do you think he was apologising for? Was he apologising that he went to the party, or has Jess said that he was apologising for the perception that that gave?”
Hart quoted Johnson saying: “I did not get it right. I must take responsibility. In hindsight I should have sent everybody back inside. I should have recognised that even if it could fall within the guidance there would be millions and millions of people who would not see it that way.”
Bruce said: “So he wasn’t apologising for going to the party was he. Let’s be clear because that’s really important. Saw he apologising for going to the party? Yes or no? Would you answer that question?
Hart replied: “It’s the other bit I wanted to say.”
Bruce interjected, adding: “No, you don’t want to answer that question?”
Hart replied: “I do. But I want to answer it by.”
Bruce interjected again, saying: “So was he apologising for going to the party or not?”
Hart continued: “I want to answer it by referring to the fact that.”
Bruce replied: “It’s a sort of yes or no really.
The Question Time audience started laughing.
Bruce asked the audience: “Did I miss something?”
She then asked Hart again: “Was he apologising for going to the party or not Simon?
Hart said: “I just. This is such a febrile subject. It’s obviously generated extraordinary.”
‘One more go’
Bruce said: “I’ll have one more go,” and then asked the audience “do you want to hear the answer to that or not?”. She then asked Hart one last time: “Was he apologising for going to the party or not? Yes or no?”
Hart said: “He was apologising for the whole sequence of events. I thought that was pretty clear in the chamber yesterday. But what I did, I try, if I can get a word in it is to say that I think it really is important that we give the sort of time and space necessary to Sue Grey, former head of propriety and ethics in the civil service, probably the most respected person in this area, to unpick all of this, and to actually present to all of us, all of us in parliament, whether it’s party members, whether it’s MPs, whether it’s opposition, whether it’s members of the public, precisely what the facts were.
“Lots of people have said to me ‘we don’t need an inquiry, we know what happened’. Actually I think we really do need an inquiry because that will be able to report without fear or favour precisely what happened and Boris Johnson has said he will come back and face colleagues, face people like Jess in that instance.
“But it’s really important, for me at any rate that we try to stand back from that and to try and be objective. I know that’s an unpopular view. I apologise for that if that’s an unpopular view. But I do think where there are so many families who are affected by it, it is important.”