12 January 2022

Johnson’s apology was ‘carefully worded face saving’, human rights lawyer says

12 January 2022

A lawyer has described Boris Johnson’s “carefully worded” apology as “face saving”, branding it “proper nonsense”.

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister who has spent the pandemic interpreting complex coronavirus laws and explaining them to the public on social media, said the Prime Minister’s statement was “obviously lawyered” and “very much about his personal liability.”

In a series of posts on Twitter, he said: “The Johnson apology was carefully worded and obviously lawyered. He said that he attended because he “believed implicitly that this was a work event”, that “with hindsight” he should have sent everyone back inside, and “technically” it could be said to fall within the guidance.

It is proper nonsense and doesn't make any sense at all given what the government were telling everyone else to do at the time

“The apology – when read carefully – was to the millions of people who “wouldn’t see it in that way”, but because he also said technically it could be said to fall within the guidance he is implicitly saying the millions of people are wrong in their interpretation.

“This was only what *he* thought the event was … So defence is a personal one only and leaves open the possibility the event was something else without him realising.

“This is very much about his personal liability – he is implicitly denying he knew what the event was, had seen the email or had anything to do with it. Because here’s the key point: on the wording of email (“bring your own booze”) this couldn’t technically have been a work event.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)

While Mr Wagner suggested the Prime Minister may say even such an event would be considered “reasonably necessary for work” to thank staff for their hard work during the pandemic, he doubted whether this would “hold weight” given the Government guidance in place at the time discouraging workplace gatherings.

He added: “The ultimate point is that at the time if anyone had asked the Prime Minister or health minister whether it was lawful to have a social work gathering outdoors for 100 with alcohol and food they would have answered with a very hard “no”. This is … face saving.

“It is proper nonsense and doesn’t make any sense at all given what the government were telling everyone else to do at the time.”

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