PM Johnson and Chancellor Sunak refuse to quit after lockdown fines

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Even though they were fined by the police for breaking rules of the lockdown in Downing Street in June 2020, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have refused to quit.

For attending a birthday celebration for the PM in No 10, the prime minister, the chancellor, and the PM’s wife all issued fixed penalty notices.

This resulted in Mr Johnson becoming the first serving PM of the United Kingdom to face legal action for breaking the law.

All three apologised, but opposition lawmakers say the Prime Minister and Mr Sunak should resign.

The chancellor said he was “focused on delivering for the British people,” while Mr Johnson said he felt “an even greater sense of obligation to deliver.”

Bereaved families, on the other hand, said there was absolutely no way either of them could continue working, calling their conduct “truly shameless.”

Amanda McEgan, who lost her daughter Isabel during the pandemic, claimed the prime minister’s behaviour during the lockdowns made the restrictions on Isabel’s funeral more heartbreaking.

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were accused by opposition parties of lying to the public about their participation at the Downing Street gathering. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the first ministers of Scotland and Wales called for their resignations.

The SNP and the Liberal Democrats have also led calls for Parliament to reconvene after the Easter break so that the Prime Minister and the chancellor can be questioned by MPs.

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak have received public support from all cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who claimed they were “delivering for Britain on many fronts.”

Only one Tory MP, Nigel Mills, has publicly stated that Mr Johnson should resign, telling BBC Radio Derby: “I don’t think his position is tenable.”

Others who asked for his resignation earlier this year, such as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, now say he should not.

Mr Johnson was “mortified” to be penalised, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who argued that he had not “set out with malice to break the law.”

He told BBC Breakfast that he understands the public’s anger with the parties, but added: “Everyone is a human. People make mistakes “. 

The fines are the result of a Met Police investigation into illegal parties conducted in Downing Street and across Whitehall during Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

The force is investigating 12 parties in total and has already issued over 50 fines, with expectation for more.

The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he accepted with all honesty that people had the right to expect more from him.

He claimed that the event for which he was fined – a birthday celebration in the Cabinet Room – was short and lasted “less than 10 minutes.”

To be honest, it did not occur to him at the time that this might have constituted a breach of the rules, he said.

Of course, the police had arrived at a different conclusion, and he entirely appreciated their decision, he concluded.

Carrie Johnson, the PM’s wife, has accepted the police findings and “unreservedly apologises,” according to a representative for her.

He understood that the regulations must be followed strictly for figures in public service in order to retain public confidence, Mr Sunak said later in a statement.

He had paid the fine because he respected the decision that was made.

However, the PM’s and chancellor’s “full” and “unreserved” apologies did not appease critics.

“You made the rules,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted. You broke your own law.  Just go.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the two top Conservatives had insulted the millions of individuals who faithfully obeyed the rules.

That was a government in crisis neglecting a country in crisis, said Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.


Image via BBC