Covid Inquiry: We were 'slapped in the face with Partygate', say bereaved families

'We were slapped in the face with Partygate', bereaved family members tell ITV News, as they reject Boris Johnson's apology for the 'suffering' endured by victims of the pandemic

Bereaved families who were escorted out of the Covid-19 Inquiry have rejected an apology from Boris Johnson and described being "slapped in the face" by Partygate.

The former prime minister is giving evidence before Baroness Heather Hallet's probe into the government's handling of the pandemic, and has admitted he "inevitably" made mistakes.

Kathryn Butcher, whose sister-in-law died in March 2020, was one of the four individuals who interrupted the ex-PM's opening address at the start of his evidence session on Wednesday.

"Can I just say how glad I am to be at this inquiry and how sorry I am for the pain and the loss and the suffering of the Covid victims," Mr Johnson said before he was cut short.

Speaking outside after she was removed from the gallery, Ms Butcher said: "I don't think I've got anything to say to him, I just didn't want to hear an apology.

"It was insincere. The behaviour of the government since the start of this pandemic, despite making mistake after mistake after mistake, just continued, and then we get slapped in the face with Partygate.

"Its just been insult after insult. I didn't want to hear an apology. If I thought he wasn't going to apologise, I would have stayed in there. I didn't want an apology, it's meaningless."

The former prime minister is facing a two-day grilling at the official Inquiry in which he will face questions on the government's key decisions and be expected to defend allegations that he wanted to "let the bodies pile high" instead of imposing tough restrictions.

But what isn't certain, is whether rule-breaking lockdown parties in Downing Street will be addressed by the lead counsel to the Inquiry, Hugo Keith KC.

The scandal was exposed in part by ITV News, when a video released in December 2021 showed a senior Downing Street figure joking about having a Christmas party.

In the following January, ITV News broadcast revelations of a 'Bring Your Own Booze' garden party in the Number 10 garden at the height of lockdown in May 2020.

Boris Johnson's secret birthday party during the first national lockdown was also exposed, landing the ex-PM with a police fine for breaking the laws he helped create.

A campaigned for Covid bereaved families said outside the Inquiry on Wednesday that it's "surreal" to listen to Mr Johnson as he defends his record.

Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees told a press conference: “It’s very surreal to be standing here, three years after my father died, and listening to the man who made the decisions that led to so many deaths. “We all knew he was disorganised and disdainful. “But I had no idea, and I’m going to use some C-words here, but not out of Dominic Cummings’ lexicon… but I wasn’t aware how casual, careless, chaotic, clueless he was. “Sadly not competent, without conscience, and 100% not contrite.”

Mr Johnson is currently giving evidence as part of the Inquiry's second module, which is focusing on UK decision-making and political governance.

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