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Boris Johnson is facing the prospect of another Partygate fine following reports that police today began issuing Fixed Penalty Notices to attendees of a ‘bring your own booze’ event in the Downing Street garden.
The Met were reported to have begun issuing fines to those who attended the ‘Bring your own booze’ No 10 garden party during the first lockdown.
The Prime Minister, who has already paid a £50 FPN over a 56th birthday bash in Number 10 in June 2020, could also now have to stump up over the event a month earlier.
It was organised by the PM’s former principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, and attended by Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie.
Mr Johnson has previously admitted attending the gathering in the Downing Street garden at the height of the UK’s first national lockdown, although he has said he believed it to be a ‘work event’.
He told MPs in January that the Downing Street garden had been used ‘as an extension of the office’ during the Covid crisis ‘because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus’.
If the Metropolitan Police do not agree with the PM’s assessment of the event – and decide he did breach Covid rules by attending – then Mr Johnson is set to receive a second FPN.
Last night a former Cabinet minister warned that a drip-drip of fines, coupled with difficult local elections, would pile pressure on the PM.
‘We’ve seen this week that this issue is still a live rail,’ the source said. ‘Some of us were willing to give the PM the benefit of the doubt over his fine for the birthday party, which sounded innocuous.
‘But if the fines keep coming and the circumstances get more egregious then that is going to be hard to sustain.’
Lord Hayward, a Tory peer and polling expert, said the bad news on Partygate had seen support for the PM ‘eroded quite quickly’.
Boris Johnson has previously admitted attending the 20 May, 2020 gathering in the Downing Street garden at the height of the UK’s first national lockdown
The PM has said that the Downing Street garden was used ‘as an extension of the office’ during the Covid crisis
Martin Reynolds, the PM’s former principal private secretary, left Number 10 earlier this year following the revelation he had sent the invite to the ‘BYOB’ event. This had earned him the nickname ‘Party Marty’
He said he now expected to see a leadership challenge before the summer.
He said: ‘If one looks forward, there is the decision of the police in relation to future fines, possibly more investigations, you’ve got the Sue Gray report and then you would have the privileges committee and this would be death by a thousand cuts.’
Ex-minister Tobias Ellwood said it was now a question of ‘when, not if’ the PM faces a vote of no confidence.
A leaked email revealed how, on 20 May 2020, one of the PM’s chief aides invited Number 10 officials to the event to enjoy the spring sunshine in the Downing Street garden that evening.
The PM subsequently admitted to attending the gathering with ‘groups of staff’ for 25 minutes.
Martin Reynolds, the PM’s former principal private secretary, left Number 10 earlier this year following the revelation he had sent the invite to the ‘BYOB’ event.
This had earned him the nickname ‘Party Marty’.
His email invite was said to have been sent to more than 100 employees in No10, including the PM’s advisers, speechwriters and door staff.
Mr Reynolds invited to staff to gather in the Downing Street garden to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’ with ‘some socially distanced drinks’.
Around 40 attendees were said to have gathered in the garden that evening to eat picnic food and drink.
Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, who has also already received a police fine over the PM’s 56th birthday event, was also among the alleged attendees on 20 May.
If the PM is fined again by the Metropolitan Police as part of their Operation Hillman investigation into Partygate, his second fine is likely to be £200.
In England, people aged over 18 can be fined £100 for a first offence of breaching COVID rules, which is lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days.
A £200 fine is issued for a second offence, which doubles for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400 per offence.
After it emerged that Scotland Yard had begun to issue FPNs over the 20 May event, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Boris Johnson must immediately declare if he is given another fine. No more cover-ups, no more lies.’
Scotland Yard this week said they would not provide any more updates on new FPNs related to Partygate until after next month’s local elections.
However, Downing Street indicated that they would still say if Mr Johnson was to receive a further fine.
The PM today ended his two-day visit to India and is due to arrive back in the UK tomorrow.
A second police fine would further imperil Mr Johnson’s chances of surviving the Partygate scandal and remaining in Number 10.
But a defiant PM earlier today insisted that he would still be in power in October, although he tried to avoid a further public grilling over Coronavirus law-breaking in Downing Street.
Mr Johnson’s press conference in New Delhi, that should have focused on his hopes for a new trade deal with India, was overshadowed by the crisis unfolding 4,000 miles away in Britain.
The PM tried to see off questions about his future in No10, suggesting reporters had already had enough of a go at him about it yesterday.
‘We had a pretty good kick of the cat yesterday, ‘ he told bemused journalists. ‘Not that I’m in favour of kicking cats, for the avoidance of all doubt.’
When it was pointed out that the UK public was interested in the issue, he said: ‘I think that what people want in our country is for the Government to get on and focus on the issues on which we were elected, and that’s what we’re going to do.
‘I think they’ll be particularly interested in jobs, growth in the UK – a memorandum of understanding for instance, today, on wind power, gigantic ambitions for more and more wind energy, both of us, not just offshore wind but floating platforms.’
He used the appearance to repeat his hopes of having an Indian free trade deal done by Diwali in October. And asked whether he would still be PM when it was signed, he said: ‘Yes.’
The Prime Minister last night bowed to a revolt in the Commons yesterday and dropped his attempt to delay yet another investigation into the lockdown lawbreaking crisis.
The Committee of Privileges will consider whether the Prime Minister knowingly misled the House over lockdown-busting gatherings.
If it finds him in contempt of Parliament, it could recommend that he is forced to apologise, suspended from the Commons, or even expelled.
No10 was forced to climb down after around half a dozen ministerial aides indicated they were prepared to resign to support the Labour plan for a fresh inquiry.
The report is not due to report back until a separate police probe in completed, most likely in the autumn.
But there are fears bombshell photographs of the PM attending parties in Downing Street – including with drinks in his hand – could be made public.
One of his closest allies, Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns, yesterday turned on Tory critics of the PM, saying: ‘If the Prime Minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim.’
The Prime Minister tried to see off questions about his future in No10, suggesting reporters had already had enough of a go at him about it yesterday.
Mr Johnson, who is in India, said he had felt like Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, because ‘my face was everywhere’ on posters when he arrived.
The Committee of Privileges will consider whether the Prime Minister knowingly misled the House over lockdown-busting gatherings
Mr Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi today
Mr Johnson, who is 4,000 miles from Westminster on a two-day visit to India, repeated his pleas for critics to move on and let him deal with issues he says are more important to the British public.
Boris gets opulent reception in Delhi – and jokes he would not get ‘fantastic welcome’ everywhere
Boris Johnson noted he would not get the same ‘fantastic welcome’ everywhere as he met his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for talks overshadowed by deepening jeopardy over the partygate affair.
The Prime Minister was welcomed with a military ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence in New Delhi on Friday morning after MPs in Westminster ordered an investigation into whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament.
Mr Johnson will hold talks with Mr Modi on defence, fossil fuels and trade as he seeks to lessen India’s ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia over his invasion of Ukraine.
The Indian leader met Mr Johnson at the presidential residence a day after a ‘fantastic welcome’ in Gujarat, the state where Mr Modi began his path to power.
Mr Johnson said he ‘wouldn’t get that necessarily everywhere’ – he paused as both men laughed – ‘in the world’.
Johnson has committed to supporting India to build fighter jets in a bid to reduce the amount of arms the nation buys from Russia.
The Prime Minister will discuss defence and security collaboration across land, sea air, space and cyber with Mr Modi when they hold talks.
Mr Johnson will use the meeting to press for a loosening of ties with Moscow, amid concerns about India’s neutrality on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Britain will also issue an open general export licence to India, which No 10 said would speed up its defence procurement in a move that is a first outside the European Union or US.
Mr Johnson, who is 4,000 miles from Westminster on a two-day visit to India, repeated his pleas for critics to move on and let him deal with issues he says are more important to the British public. They include the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation soaring and bills rising.
He praised the ‘fantastic welcome’ he has received in Gujarat and New Delhi, joking with counterpart Narendra Modi that he ‘wouldn’t get that necessarily everywhere’.
Later he said he had felt like Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, because ‘my face was everywhere’ on posters.
But Tory critic Mark Harper last night warned he faces efforts to remove him before Parliament rises in July.
It came after Steve Baker, who earlier this week backed the PM to continue, told him: ‘The gig is up.’ And, speaking later to MailOnline, Mr Baker said it was up to Cabinet ministers to tell the PM ‘it’s over’.
However, Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns attacked Tory critics of the PM, telling the BBC: ‘If the Prime Minister stepped off Westminster Bridge and walked on top of the water they would say he couldn’t swim. That is a fact.’
Tobias Ellwood said the onus is on Tory MPs to force a change in leadership.
Speaking on Sky News, the Conservative MP and long-term critic of the PM, said: ‘There’s a recognition that every MP now realises it’s up to us to take ownership of this, because, I’m afraid, the absence of discipline, of focus and leadership in Number 10 during that lockdown period has led to a huge breach of trust with the British people.
‘It’s causing such long-term damage to the party’s brand and that’s proving difficult to repair.
‘Can it be repaired in time for the next general election?
‘So it’s beholden upon all Conservative MPs then to take matters into their own hands, and I think, as I say, I think this is where things will go, particularly as we have more bad news to follow.’
However, Mr Burns said today there is ‘no question’ of Boris Johnson standing down over the partygate row.
Burns, a long-time ally of the PM, told Sky News Mr Johnson was confident that he would be cleared once the full facts were made public.
‘He remains confident that when people can see the full context of what happened it will be clear that he was straightforward, he said to the House in good faith that he believed the rules were followed,’ he said.
‘He is looking forward to this ending. He is looking forward to drawing this to a conclusion, for it to be examined fully so that we can move on to the things people are genuinely concerned about.’
Any sanction imposed by the Privileges Committee would still need to be approved by MPs.
Boris Johnson ally likens PM to JESUS as he turns on Tory critics
One of Boris Johnson‘s closest allies has lashed out at fellow Conservative MPs for declining to support the Prime Minister – who he claimed would fail to win the backing of all Tories even if he could ‘walk on water’.
Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns insisted there were a number of Tory MPs who had ‘never really supported’ Mr Johnson as Conservative leader or PM.
He spoke out after the latest developments in the Partygate scandal saw Mr Johnson – who has been slapped with a £50 police fine over a Covid rule breach – lose further support among Tory ranks.
MPs yesterday approved an new investigation by the Commons’ Privileges Committee into allegations Mr Johnson misled the House with his past denials of lockdown breaches in Number 10.
The Commons ruled that the PM’s past statements ‘appear to amount to misleading the House’ as they approved the fresh probe.
Yesterday also saw the PM lose further backing among Tories – with influential Conservative backbencher Steve Baker telling Mr Johnson: ‘The gig is up.’
Mr Baker told MailOnline it would now be up to Cabinet ministers to tell the PM ‘it’s over’.
The committee, which has existed in some form since the 17th century, will be able to compel the release of documents, such as photographs of the Downing Street parties.
A dossier of more than 300 images have been handed to Scotland Yard by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who led a Cabinet Office probe into the matter. They include some taken by the official No 10 photographer.
So far, no pictures have been made public of any of the 12 events being investigated by the police, which include a ‘bring-your-own-booze’ garden party, a gathering in the Cabinet Office to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday, and a series of leaving dos.
The privileges committee is a cross-party group of seven MPs with a Tory majority. Its chairman is Labour’s Chris Bryant – but he has recused himself from the investigation into Mr Johnson because of critical remarks he has made about him.
The most recent case considered by the committee related to Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings in 2018.
He was found to be in contempt of Parliament after he refused to appear before a select committee investigating fake news.
The most recent investigation into an MP was into Tory Justin Tomlinson in 2016. He was suspended for two days for leaking a select committee report.
This comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a major defeat in the Commons yesterday after his whips admitted they could not guarantee him a win to see off an opposition attempt to extend the Partygate investigation.
Government ministers yesterday morning insisted the party would vote against an investigation before the admission of defeat.
Despite the defeat, Johnson last night warned that Partygate investigations cannot go ‘on and on and on’ after a bid to block a new inquiry into the affair backfired.
Downing Street was yesterday forced to abandon efforts to halt a new probe by a Commons committee just minutes before a debate on the issue.
No 10 dropped plans to table a ‘wrecking amendment’ after Tory whips warned that dozens of MPs were not willing to support it. One source said up to half a dozen ministerial aides had threatened to resign if they were ordered to vote for the Government’s amendment.
Mr Johnson yesterday insisted he had ‘nothing to hide’, but warned the endless investigations could ‘crowd out’ the public’s priorities.
Speaking to reporters on a visit to India, which was overshadowed by the row, he said: ‘What I don’t want is for this thing to just go on and on and on.
Boris Johnson, who flew to India, learned some 300 images of Downing Street parties taken by his official photographer could be released to a Parliamentary committee of privileges investigating Partygate
So far, no pictures have been made public of any of the 12 events being investigated by the police, which include a ‘bring-your-own-booze’ garden party, a gathering in the Cabinet Office to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday, and a series of leaving dos
Mr Johnson used his trip to India to visit a factory owned by JCB – which is run by millionaire Tory donor Lord Bamford
While the Prime Minister is 4,000 miles away on a two-day visit to India, opposition parties will attempt to launch an inquiry into whether he misled the Commons over raucous drinking events in Downing Street.
Mr Johnson said today that he wanted to ‘let the investigators (the police) do their stuff’ before a parliamentary probe was started. Hours later his Government U-turned
Boris Johnson flew to India in an effort to avoid the continuing Partygate scandal
Rules may be eased for Indian migrants to fill UK’s IT job shortage
Boris Johnson opened the door last night to easing immigration rules with India, saying that the UK is short of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of IT experts.
The Government is aiming to secure a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by the end of 2022 – and the PM signalled a relaxation of immigration rules could be part of it.
‘We are aiming for an FTA by the end of the year,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘On immigration I’ve always been in favour of having people coming to this country.
‘We have a massive shortage in the UK, not least in experts in IT and programmers. We need to have a professional approach but it has to be controlled.’
He made the comments as he flew to India, where he will today hail a new era in the UK and India’s trade relationship.
He will confirm more than £1billion in new investments and export deals, creating 11,000 jobs across the UK.
‘We’ve had one inquiry, we’ve had a police inquiry, I think there’s got to be a way of drawing a line under it.’ Senior Tories believe Labour is deliberately dragging out the affair in a bid to maximise political damage ahead of next month’s local elections, in the hope of wrecking the PM’s agenda and forcing him from No 10.
Hinting at his frustration, Mr Johnson said: ‘The issue before us today is how much of my time and my energy can I expend on apologising?
‘I am extremely contrite for my mistakes, and I’ve said that, and I repeat it. The reality is I also have to get on and deliver on the priorities of the British people and I have to take our country forward.’
The Prime Minister faces a fresh inquiry into whether he deliberately misled MPs when he denied knowledge of rule-breaking – an offence that could see him suspended from the Commons.
The inquiry by an obscure committee of MPs has the power to demand photos and other evidence of alleged wrongdoing, and is likely to take months, frustrating efforts by the PM to move on to other issues, such as tackling the cost of living.
In other developments on a chaotic day at Westminster:
- Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker called on Mr Johnson to quit, saying it was time for him to realise ‘the gig’s up’;
- Sir Keir Starmer was forced to issue a humiliating apology to MPs after wrongly claiming the Prime Minister had criticised the BBC’s coverage of the Ukraine war;
- Rishi Sunak, who has also been fined £50 for attending an illegal gathering in No 10, said he was ‘sincerely sorry for the hurt and the anger’ caused;
- The Metropolitan Police said they would not release further details of Partygate fines before the local elections;
- Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ignored Tory protests and allowed the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford to brand the PM a ‘liar’ – an accusation normally banned in Parliament.
Sunak says sorry for Partygate fine
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is ‘extremely and sincerely sorry’ for the hurt he caused by his attendance at a Downing Street birthday gathering for Boris Johnson during lockdown.
Mr Sunak, in Washington for the spring meeting of the IMF, said he respected the decision of the police to issue him with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) but added he had never considered resigning over the issue.
Mr Sunak was among a tranche of 30 people including the PM and his wife Carrie who were handed a fine last month. The Chancellor was censured for attending the PM’s 56th birthday party in No10 in June 2020.
‘I fully respect the decision that the police have reached,’ he told the BBC.
‘I paid the FPN notice straightaway and I am extremely and sincerely sorry for the hurt and the anger that this has caused so many people.
‘I have always acted, I believe, in good faith in regard to what I said to Parliament.’
Asked if he had considered resigning, Mr Sunak said: ‘No. I am focused on getting on with the job I have got to do.’
Yesterday’s row was sparked by a Labour bid to force an inquiry by the Commons privileges committee into whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled MPs over lockdown parties in No 10 – something he denies. On Wednesday night, the Government unveiled a ‘wrecking amendment’ which would have delayed the vote for months.
Tory MPs were put on a three-line whip to support the amendment, and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was sent out on to the airwaves yesterday morning to defend it. But despite having a Commons majority of almost 80, Tory whips were not confident they could persuade enough MPs to block the inquiry. Labour warned it would use local election literature to ‘name and shame’ any MP who voted against the inquiry.
Tory MP Felicity Buchan condemned Labour’s ‘threatening, bullying, toxic’ approach, but the tactic was effective, with dozens of Tory MPs telling party whips they would abstain, prompting the Government to drop its amendment.
The U-turn revived criticism of the PM’s Downing Street operation, with one senior Tory describing it as ‘the worst of all worlds’.
But Mr Johnson, who was more than 4,000 miles away on a pre-planned trip to India, defended the move, saying: ‘People were saying it looks like we are trying to stop stuff. I didn’t want that.
‘I didn’t want people to be able to say that. I don’t want this thing to endlessly go on. But I have absolutely nothing to hide. If that is what the Opposition want to talk about, that is fine.’
Labour’s motion was eventually passed without a vote. But the inquiry will not begin work until the Met Police have finished their investigations into a dozen alleged parties, and Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray has published her report on the affair.
Mr Johnson’s fate will then be placed in the hands of the powerful, but little known, Commons privileges committee. The committee’s Labour chairman Chris Bryant has agreed to stand aside from the inquiry after savaging the PM’s conduct, leaving the committee with a four-two Tory majority.
Mr Baker said the ‘barbaric’ nature of the lockdown laws imposed on the country meant there could be no excuse for breaches by those who set them.
‘There should have been no cake in No 10 and no booze in No 10,’ he said. ‘These things should not have happened.’
Steve Baker said he’d had enough of being ‘the lieutenant in the trenches doing all the s*** jobs’ and called on Cabinet ministers to instead ‘rise to this moment’ and topple the PM
Boris Johnson is more than 4,000 miles away from Westminster on a trip to India as he suffered a series of fresh blows in the Partygate scandal that is threatening his political future
Cabinet ministers were told by Mr Baker that ‘if they do not rise to this moment, they are failing in their duty’. He told them to tell the PM to ‘bank your successes and go before you lead us to defeat’
William Wragg, a long-time critic of Mr Johnson, said he was doing a ‘good job’ on Ukraine, but added: ‘Much as I may try, I cannot reconcile myself to the PM’s continued leadership of our party and country.’
In a scathing speech, he said it was ‘utterly depressing to be asked to defend the indefensible. Each time, part of us withers’.
Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, who has submitted a letter of no confidence in the PM, said: ‘I do forgive the Prime Minister for making those mistakes, but I do not forgive him for misleading the House.’
But environment minister Zac Goldsmith launched a stinging attack on Mr Johnson’s critics, saying many of them were ‘annoyed they’re not PM, annoyed they’re not ministers, or who simply know that bashing Boris turns them instantly into ‘top Tories’.’
The row overshadowed Mr Johnson’s trip to India, where he appeared irritated by a string of media questions.
During a fractious interview with Sky News, he repeatedly pointed to his watch and urged the channel’s political editor Beth Rigby to focus on the ‘substance’ of the visit to one of Britain’s biggest allies.
Source: Daily Mail