Boris Johnson has apologised for breaking his government’s Covid rules to attend his own work birthday party in 2020 and has vowed to stay on as Prime Minister.
The PM, chancellor Rishi Sunak and Carrie Johnson were all handed Fixed Penalty Notices by the Metropolitan Police today for a lockdown-busting work birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020.
Johnson said he did not know this event, which he joined for less than 10 minutes and was attended by Downing Street staff, was in breach of the rules and that he has now paid the police fine.
The Met investigation is looking at more than a dozen Downing Street and Whitehall parties that happened during strict Covid restrictions, meaning more fines may be given to the PM for other potential breaches.
“In all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. Of course the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation,” Johnson said during a short statement.
“I understand the anger many will feel that I myself fell short when it came to observing the very rules which the government I lead had introduced to protect the public.”
The Prime Minister said he wanted to “get on and deliver the mandate I have, but also to tackle the problems the country must face right now”, including the cost of living crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“I think the best thing I can do now is focus on the job in hand,” he said.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for Johnson and Sunak to resign, saying that “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public”.
A snap YouGov poll found 57 per cent of Brits think Johnson and Sunak should both resign.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called for parliament to be recalled from easter recess for a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.
Cabinet ministers have begun to rally around Johnson, with culture secretary Nadine Dorries tweeting that “PM has been clear about what happened on 19th June 2020 & offered a full apology”.
“It was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room, less than 10 minutes during a busy working day. PM is at his best when delivering on the priorities of the British people which he will continue to do,” she said.
Johnson was under serious pressure to resign at the height of the partygate scandal, with more than a dozen Tory MPs calling for him to go.
The Prime Minister has since shored up his position with his response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however his approval ratings with the public remain at an all-time low.
A leadership contest of the Conservative party will be called if 54 letters of no-confidence are sent in to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers by MPs.
Senior Tory Sir Roger Gale – who was one of the first MPs to call for Johnson to go – today said it was not the time to unseat Johnson while the war in Ukraine is being fought.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who sent in a letter of no-confidence in January, also publicly came out in support for Johnson this afternoon.
“In the middle of war in Europe, when Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and the UK is Ukraine’s biggest ally, as President Zelensky said at the weekend, it wouldn’t be right to remove the prime minister at this time,” he said.
Tory MP Charles Walker told Times Radio: “Well, I’m pretty speechless to be honest. I just know a lot of my constituents suffered hugely during lockdown and continue to suffer … I feel for them really.”