Johnson faces growing pressure as first ‘partygate’ fines to be issued

Further investigations into Downing Street, Whitehall gatherings likely to take weeks

British opposition parties have renewed their calls for Boris Johnson to resign after the Metropolitan Police said 20 fines would be issued over parties in Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdowns. The police statement was the first official confirmation that the law was broken during the gatherings, despite the prime minister's assurances that the rules were followed at all times.

The fines, which will be issued by the ACRO Criminal Records Office, are just the first in an investigation that is likely to continue for weeks.

“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations,” the Metropolitan Police statement said.

“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments. However, due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made to ACRO if the evidential threshold is made.”

Downing Street said Mr Johnson had not received notice that he would be fined, adding that they would not reveal the identities of any staff found to have broken the regulations apart from the prime minister and cabinet secretary Simon Case.

“It is not so much will we tell you, it is a function of the fact that by nature of the way this is being handled, as the Met have made clear there is anonymity,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said. “As relates to individuals, we wouldn’t necessarily know. But obviously given the significant interest around the prime minister, we will confirm if he were to receive one. I understand that extends to the cabinet secretary as well, given his unique position.”

Found guilty

When news of the Downing Street parties emerged late last year, a number of senior Conservatives called for the prime minister to resign, but most have retracted those calls since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said the prime minister was ultimately responsible for what went on in Downing Street.

“After over two months of police time, 12 parties investigated and over a hundred people questioned under caution, Boris Johnson’s Downing Street has been found guilty of breaking the law,” she said.

“The culture is set from the very top. The buck stops with the prime minister, who spent months lying to the British public, which is why he has got to go. It is disgraceful that while the rest of the country followed their rules, Boris Johnson’s government acted like they did not apply to them. This has been a slap in the face of the millions of people who made huge sacrifices.”

The Liberal Democrats said Conservative MPs should get rid of the prime minister, who told the House of Commons last December that no rules had been broken in Downing Street. His spokespeople and other cabinet ministers denied dozens of times that regulations had been breached.