Partygate: PM and chancellor resist calls to quit

Published by Scott Challinor on April 13th 2022, 9:09am

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak have rejected calls for them to resign, despite both having been fined by police this week for breaching Covid lockdown laws in Downing Street during June 2020.

Both Johnson and Sunak were issued fixed penalty notices for attending a small gathering for the prime minister’s birthday in Downing Street, as was the PM’s wife Carrie Johnson.

The trio have since issued apologies, with the PM saying that he accepted “in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better” from his conduct.

Claiming that the “brief” gathering lasted “less than 10 minutes”, Johnson said that “in all frankness, at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.”

He continued: “But, of course, the police have found otherwise, and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”

Yet, opposition MPs have still urged Johnson and Sunak to go. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote on Twitter: “You made the rules. You broke your own law. Just go.”

The Liberal Democrats and SNP have even gone as far as to call for Parliament to be recalled early from the Easter recess so that the prime minister and chancellor can face the Commons.

Although Johnson has become the first serving prime minister of the UK to be sanctioned for a breach of law, he said that the punishment empowered him with “an even greater sense of obligation to deliver” for the British people.

But the fines continue to raise questions over the prime minister’s integrity, after he previously insisted that Covid guidelines were always observed within Downing Street. Sunak has also faced accusations of misleading Parliament after insisting that he did not attend any parties.

However, both have received the public backing of their fellow cabinet ministers, with transport secretary Grant Shapps insisting that the PM did not “set out with malice to break the law”.

Despite previously suggesting that the PM should resign, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said that it would be inappropriate for Johnson to leave his position now, with the UK continuing to provide support for Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Only one Conservative MP, Nigel Mills of the Amber Valley constituency in Derbyshire, has broken ranks by hinting that the PM ought to resign. He said on BBC Radio Derby that he no longer believes Johnson position to be "tenable".

50 fines have so far been issued as the Metropolitan Police continues to investigate 12 parties in Downing Street and Whitehall while lockdown laws were in force in 2020 and 2021. More are expected to follow.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
April 13th 2022, 9:09am

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