The Downing Street ‘parties’ scandal has been going on for a long time and has escalated at unprecedented levels. The most recent update comes as the police have confirmed a grand total of 20 fines in the Partygate scandal, leading to calls for the PM’s resignation. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes reports on the new development.
The PM has been accused of “mis(leading) parliament”, after it has been announced that 20 cases of lockdown law-breaking at Downing Street and Whitehall parties, will be met with up to £400 of fixed penalty notices. Boris Johnson’s resignation has been called for.
These alleged parties/gatherings in November 2020, occurred when England was in the middle of the national lockdown; two, or more, people were not allowed to meet inside, unless there were exemptions. Fines for the breaching of Covid restrictions had been doubled to £200 and were as high as £10,000 for people who organised larger social gatherings of more than 30 people.At the end of last year, Mr. Johnson commented that “all guidance was followed completely”. This statement has now received significant levels of doubt.The PM’s Official Spokesperson has announced that the PM will not comment on the findings until the police investigation has reached its conclusion. He has maintained that Boris Johnson, always, “set out his understanding of events”.
All guidance was followed completely
When asked whether the PM would resign, the Official Spokesperson responded by saying that it was a “hypothetical question.” Mr. Johnson has not yet been informed as to whether he will be issued a fine or called for an interview with Operation Hillman officers.
The Spokesperson denied any conclusion that, due to the referral of the cases by the MET to the Criminal Records Office, the law had been broken. Instead, the Spokesperson said that it should be “a matter for police to determine.”
Scotland Yard has announced that it will not reveal the names of those accused, or how many people were found in breach of the rules, in connection with the 12 events under investigation. Furthermore, Downing Street itself is not aware of the names of people who have been fined, and the accused are not required to inform their managers if they have received a penalty. However, The Independent understands that they will be required to “disclose” the fines to “security vetting teams”.
However, it has been said that it will be confirmed whether the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, has been issued with a fine.
The buck stops with the Prime Minister, who spent months lying to the British Public
The fines could be even higher than estimated, as it is not certain whether the 20 penalties refer to 20 different individuals, or whether some individuals have committed multiple offences.Outrage has been sparked by this new information, both from MPs and the public. The Deputy Leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, said that “the buck stops with the prime minister, who spent months lying to the British public”, and has expressed her view that she should resign. The Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, commented that “we all know who is responsible.”
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign has said it is “crystal clear” that the British public “rose to the challenge” of following lockdown rules, whilst “those at 10 Downing Street failed.”
Nevertheless, when The Independent approached MPs who had previously called for Mr. Johnson’s resignation if he was found to have broken lockdown rules, they refused to comment; many of them are thought to be waiting for the publication of a report of the affair by Sue Grey, Whitehall civil servant.
In addition, former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, expressed his view that, even if the PM is fined, he should not resign. “My judgement without a shadow of a doubt is that the best person to lead the country is Boris Johnson, who is keeping us safe.”
Mr. Hancock previously resigned from his job, after he himself was found to have broken COVID-19 restrictions.
Great uncertainty surrounds the PM’s future, and the future of all those fixed with a penalty notice.
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