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British PM dismisses accusations of misleading parliament over party scandal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, on January 12, 2022. (Photo via social media)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed accusations that he lied to parliament about the widely-criticized social gatherings at Downing Street during COVID-19 lockdowns, saying nobody had warned him that the parties might be in breach of rules at the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson, who is grappling with the gravest crisis of his tenure after revelations about the gatherings, on Tuesday denied accusations by his former aide that he had lied to parliament about a garden party thrown by his office during the first pandemic wave in May 2020.

Dominic Cummings, who was once Johnson's chief advisor, said the premier knew that a party was being held at his residence at the time when Britain was at the height of a COVID lockdown.

Asked if he had lied to the public and parliament, the British premier responded with a resounding "No" and said nobody had told him about what was going on at the party and that he thought the gathering was a work event.

"No. Nobody told me that what we were doing was, as you say, against the rules, that the event in question, was, something... that we were going to do something that wasn't a work event. And as I said in the House of Commons, when I went out into that garden, I thought that I was attending a work event," Johnson told reporters.

The British premier sidestepped several questions about whether or not he would resign if it was proven that he had misled parliament, however, he once again apologized for his government's mistakes in Downing Street during the lockdown period.

"I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened, and I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgements that were made and for which I take full responsibility," Johnson said.

"I do know how infuriating it must be for people up and down the country in view of the huge sacrifices that people have made, the way that they've kept discipline, the way they've followed the rules, followed the guidance, done the right thing, to think that that didn't happen in Number 10 Downing Street,'' he added.

British media reports said on Sunday that lawmakers of the ruling Conservative Party were prepared to oust Johnson "within weeks" if the prime minister tried to dodge responsibility for the social gatherings at Downing Street.

The Tory MPs were said to be waiting for an investigation report on the "partygate" before deciding the prime minister's fate, and large numbers were reported to have admitted privately that they had already made up their minds.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray has launched an investigation into the parties held by Johnson and his government staff during the coronavirus restrictions, and is due to report her findings by the end of the month.

Johnson has come under harsh criticism following reports that more than 100 members of his staff were invited to a party in the garden of his official residence in May 2020. The British government was also criticized for revelations of partying  including two events on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral last April  when such gatherings were forbidden due to the pandemic.

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