UK minister Michael Gove apologises for shocking party video

Senior British government minister Michael Gove described a video showing a party at the ruling Conservative Party campaign headquarters during a COVID lockdown in 2020 as "terrible."
FILE PHOTO: Michael Gove, Britain’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is seen during his speech at the 'Convention of the North' conference in Manchester, Britain, January 25, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: Michael Gove, Britain’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is seen during his speech at the 'Convention of the North' conference in Manchester, Britain, January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble/FILE PHOTO

LONDON (Reuters) - Senior British government minister Michael Gove on Sunday described a video showing a party at the ruling Conservative Party campaign headquarters during a COVID lockdown in 2020 as "terrible", and apologised to the public.

The video was published by the Mirror newspaper just days after a parliamentary committee ruled that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had wilfully misled lawmakers about rule-breaking lockdown parties at his office.

The 45-second clip shows revellers partying in December 2020 when the British public were banned from socialising indoors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

People can be seen dancing and drinking in the video. Two of those at the gathering, which had previously been investigated by police when a still photo of it emerged, were given honours by Johnson in his resignation list earlier this month.

"It's terrible," Gove, the housing minister, told Sky News. "I think it's completely out of order. I just want to apologise to everyone really."

The issue of rule-breaking during COVID lockdowns helped bring down Johnson, who left office last year, and still hangs over the Conservatives and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Johnson stepped down as a member of parliament on June 9 days before the privileges committee - the main disciplinary body for lawmakers - issued its damning verdict on him, re-opening divisions in the party and re-igniting public anger.

Polls suggest the Conservatives, in power since 2010, are trailing the opposition Labour party by about 20% percentage points. The next election must be held by late 2024.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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