Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over Covid lockdown breaches on a “record-breaking scale” after the Metropolitan police mentioned it had issued 100 fixed-penalty notices as a part of its Partygate investigation.
The power beforehand mentioned it had issued greater than 50 fines, a determine up to date on Thursday to greater than 100. This was the primary public data since updates on the investigation’s progress had been paused forward of final week’s native elections.
Johnson confirmed neither he nor his spouse, Carrie, had been amongst these issued with new fines, whereas Downing Street mentioned this was additionally the state of affairs for Simon Case, the cupboard secretary. The Met assertion mentioned the investigation “remains live”, indicating extra penalties could come.
In a pooled tv clip from a go to to Birmingham on Thursday, the prime minister maintained his refusal to debate the difficulty till the conclusion of the police inquiry and the discharge of a parallel civil service report into illicit events.
“As soon as I have any more to say about that, you will be amongst the very first to know,” Johnson mentioned when requested concerning the nice, repeating the reply when requested why he had not resigned after being fined earlier within the investigation, given Keir Starmer’s pledge to do that if he’s punished for breaching Covid guidelines. Asked if he or his spouse had obtained new fines, he mentioned: “No.”
Operation Hillman, the codename for the investigation, is 12 separate occasions in Downing Street and Whitehall throughout 2020 and 2021. The Met’s management believed in February it will be accomplished inside weeks, however there’s nonetheless no signal of an imminent finish.
Some of the brand new penalties are understood to have been issued for a celebration inside Downing Street on 18 December 2020, which Johnson didn’t attend, however which No 10 aides had been later filmed joking about.
Footage was leaked in December 2021 of a rehearsal a yr earlier for proposed televised Downing Street briefings, throughout which officers talked about an obvious Christmas social gathering a number of days earlier than.
Johnson’s then-director of communications, Allegra Stratton, was proven laughing as she struggled to reply questions from a colleague, appearing as a journalist, about whether or not a celebration occurred. “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine,” one aide joked. Stratton resigned after the video was made public.
One former Whitehall insider steered “20-30 people” attended the cheese and wine social gathering.
Some of those that have obtained fines have grow to be more and more exasperated on the reality the prime minister has escaped virtually unscathed.
One former official steered junior colleagues would have felt “actively marked down” had they declined to attend occasions organised by “the most senior officials in No 10” – such because the “bring your own booze” gathering to which Johnson’s principal non-public secretary, Martin Reynolds, despatched invites.
“Martin’s job was to check with the Covid taskforce to see if things were within the rules,” the previous official mentioned. “If he’s inviting you to come, you’re going to assume that it’s Covid compliant.”
Last month, it was confirmed that Johnson had obtained a fixed-penalty discover, for a party in June 2020. His spouse and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, had been penalised for a similar occasion.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy chief, mentioned the brand new fines meant Downing Street had “racked up the dubious distinction of receiving more fines on the prime minister’s watch than any other location”.
She added: “Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them at record-breaking scale.”
Johnson has instructed pals he believes he is not going to obtain additional penalties, and mentioned publicly final week he had not but been despatched a questionnaire from the Met concerning the leaving social gathering for his aide Lee Cain, at which he’s believed to have poured drinks, and which is among the 12 occasions being investigated.
Several sources have steered a separate social gathering was held on the identical night time, hosted by Carrie Johnson upstairs within the No 10 flat, at which Abba was performed loudly. Johnson is anticipated to argue that whereas he was current at that gathering, it was solely to interview a doable candidate for a job.
Many Conservative MPs are awaiting the publication of the complete civil service report, put collectively by the senior official Sue Gray, earlier than deciding whether or not to maneuver towards the prime minister.
So far, the Cabinet Office has solely printed a pared down model of her findings, after she paused her work whereas the Met investigation occurred.
Durham police mentioned final week they’d examine claims the Labour chief, Keir Starmer, broke lockdown guidelines by consuming a takeaway curry at a marketing campaign occasion final yr.