Boris Johnson’s fixed penalty notice over the Partygate scandal has been met with a muted response from within his party, but his team reportedly think it is “inevitable” that more fines are to come.
The prime minister “appears to have defied political gravity yet again”, with cabinet members coming out in support for Johnson after the fine was announced, said Beth Rigby at Sky News. But she believes the punishment “could be the tip of the iceberg”.
Johnson – as well as his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – was fined for attending his own birthday gathering in Downing Street on 19 June, but Rigby said this is only one of “up to six events being investigated by the Met” to which the PM has been linked.
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Further fines could be “very politically difficult” for Johnson who has tried to portray the birthday event as “exceptional” when “in time it could turn out as one incident in a pattern of breaches”, said Rigby.
Pippa Crerar, the Daily Mirror’s political editor who last November broke the news that a Christmas party had taken place in Downing Street in 2020 during lockdown, reported that Johnson faces three more fines over the scandal.
“The PM admitted himself more penalties could be coming down the track,” she said. He has told reporters: “If they are, you will be the first to know.”
Johnson’s team has concluded it is “inevitable” he will be fined for further breaches, government aides told The Times.
According to The Telegraph, he is likely to get one for giving a speech at the leaving party for his outgoing director of communications, Lee Cain, on 13 November 2020. “It is understood that he remained at the gathering for some time, making it more difficult for him to argue that it was a work event and he had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for being there”, said the paper.
It added that the final report from Sue Gray into the scandal will be “critical of Mr Johnson’s attendance at the event, increasing the likelihood that he will receive another fixed penalty notice”.
One source told the paper: “Given that he has already received a fine for what was a relatively minor breach, it seems inevitable he will receive more fines as the police complete their investigation.”
The Guardian reported that two other events – the “bring your own booze” gathering in May 2020 and an event in Johnson’s flat on the day Dominic Cummings departed No. 10 in November 2020 – are yet to be fully examined by the Metropolitan Police.
‘Worst yet to come’
David Wolfson resigned as justice minister last night, saying the prime minister’s actions were “inconsistent with the rule of law”. Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chair of the Commons Defence Committee, also urged the party leader to trigger his own vote of confidence once the local elections were over.
“Johnson may have weathered the storm for now, but the worst could be yet to come,” said Rigby at Sky News.
One former cabinet minister told her that the Tory party “would want to try to keep a lid on internal splits until the ballot box moment has passed”, but a “dire” performance on 5 May would “undoubtedly put further pressure on the PM”.
Johnson is also facing a parliamentary investigation into whether he knowingly misled the Commons.
“Sustained poor polling and negative headlines, dire election results and further revelations are all points of real danger,” concluded Rigby.
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