U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak are to be fined by police for breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules, the government said Tuesday, reigniting calls for the embattled ministers to resign.
The announcement means Johnson will become the first sitting prime minister in living memory to have been found breaking the law.
Johnson and Sunak “have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” a spokesperson at Downing Street said in a statement.
“We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do,” they added.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the two Conservative Party lawmakers to resign, saying they had both repeatedly lied to the public.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed this sentiment, while Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he does not see how Johnson can continue.
“You can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker,” Drakeford said via Twitter. “He has clearly broken the laws he made and asked people to follow. People are angry and upset. I don’t see how someone in this position can carry on.”
Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s partner, has also been notified that she is to receive a fine for Covid lockdown breaches, her spokesperson said, according to Sky News.
The Metropolitan Police said earlier on Tuesday that they had made an additional 30 referrals to a previous 20 fixed-penalty notices as part of an investigation into illegal gatherings at the prime minister’s office and residence.
The Met had been investigating 12 gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall alleged to have broken Covid lockdown rules.
Johnson has so far resisted calls to resign over the “partygate” scandal despite sustained public anger.
It had previously been expected that a police fine for Johnson over Covid lockdown breaches could trigger a no-confidence vote.
However, Conservative lawmakers are now seen as likely to hold off on submitting the necessary number of no-confidence letters, citing the government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a top priority.
Johnson’s leadership has been under immense pressure following a series of allegations that government staff, including Johnson at times, had attended multiple parties and gatherings at a time of strict public health measures to curb the spread of Covid.
Sunak, too, has come under pressure in recent weeks. The finance minister has faced questions over his past U.S. residency and his wife’s tax affairs.
One gathering, in particular, snared Johnson as it was held in May 2020 at the height of the first lockdown, when the general public was only allowed to meet one other person from outside of their household, in an outdoor setting.
Johnson admitted to Parliament in January that he attended the party — billed as a “bring your own booze” gathering in Downing Street’s garden to which around 100 people were reportedly invited.
But he told lawmakers that he had only attended the party for 25 minutes in order to “thank groups of staff” for their hard work and that he “believed implicitly that this was a work event,” a comment lampooned by opposition politicians.
The Labour party has been scathing about Johnson’s leadership and his comments on his attendance at the May 2020 party, repeatedly calling on the prime minister to resign.
When Johnson in January offered his “heartfelt apologies” to the nation about attending the event, Labour’s Starmer said Johnson’s explanation for his attendance was “so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public” as he called on the Conservative Party leader “to do the decent thing and resign.”
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