Ministers remain tight-lipped on whether they still have faith in PM
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case were unscathed by the latest tranche of partygate fines issued by the Metropolitan Police.
It was announced yesterday that the force had made around a further 50 fixed penalty notice referrals as part of its investigation into possible lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
It brought the number of fines to more than 100 — with Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak hit with fixed penalty notices in April over a birthday party held for the Prime Minister in No 10’s Cabinet room in June 2020.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson broke his own rules on a “record-breaking scale” and that “Britain deserves better”.
It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is caught in a row of his own over a possible Covid rule breach after he was filmed last year drinking beer with staff in a party office in Durham.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said that, following the Met’s update, neither the PM nor Mr Case were among those fined in the latest tranche.
Mr Johnson confirmed he was not one of the most recent recipients, nor was his wife, following a Cabinet away day in Stoke-on-Trent.
Asked by broadcasters if he or Mrs Johnson had been issued with a second fine, he said: “No, but as soon as we have more to say on that, as I’ve said many times before, you will be among the very first to know.”
The Prime Minister said he was “sure we’ll have plenty to say about that when the thing is finished” when asked about the extent of law-breaking in Downing Street as he arrived for a Cabinet meeting in Staffordshire yesterday.
Ministers dodged questions on whether they still had faith in the PM when asked about the latest development at the same event.
Home Secretary Priti Patel failed to say whether or not she still supported Mr Johnson, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid also chose not to answer when asked why the PM would not resign, despite Sir Keir’s promise to do so if he is handed a fixed penalty notice.
The Metropolitan Police said yesterday: “As of Thursday, May 12, Operation Hillman, the investigation into breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street, has made more than 100 referrals for fixed penalty notices to the ACRO Criminal Records Office.
“These referrals have continued to be made throughout the period since our last update on Tuesday, April 12 and the investigation remains live.”
In its last update on April 12, the Met said that “over 50” fixed penalty notice referrals had been made.
Mr Johnson is alleged to have been at six of the 12 events being examined by the force, meaning he could be fined again.
Sir Keir has pledged to stand down if he is fined for breaching coronavirus regulations.
Asked in an interview broadcast yesterday if he too should go in the event the Labour leader resigns, Mr Johnson told LBC: “What matters to me and the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is not stuff that, I think, is, however fascinating (it) is to people, I don’t think is material to the cost of living.
“What matters to me is getting our people through the aftershocks of Covid and coming out strongly the other side, but making sure that we use... all the legislative firepower in the Queen’s Speech, all the things that we’re doing on skills, on infrastructure, on the cost of energy, on education, to make sure that we have a strong economic recovery, that we power through.”