By Connor Steel
PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are facing intense calls to resign from their Government posts; despite apologies from both following the news that they have been given a fixed penalty notice alongside Carrie Johnson for their involvement in Downing Street parties held under lockdown restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It came as the Metropolitan Police announced that another thirty fines had been issued as part of their ‘Operation Hillman’ investigation into breaches of Covid-19 restrictions this morning; with Number 10 confirming that Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Mr Sunak had been all referred to ARCO Criminal Records Office responsible for issuing fixed penalty notices (FPNs) just before 2pm.
The FPNs relate to a 30-person gathering in the cabinet office of Downing Street on June 19, 2020 that was held for Mr Johnson’s fifty-sixth birthday, when groups of more than one were banned under the Coronavirus Act issued three months earlier. Today’s announcement’s mean that he has become the first serving Prime Minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law, although FPNs issued for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions don’t result in an official criminal record unless unpaid.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak faced renewed calls for their resignations from opposition parties; Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying the fines showed the Conservatives were “totally unfit to govern”, adding: “Britain deserves better.” He also accused the Prime Minister and Chancellor of misleading Parliament; whilst also calling for them both to quit.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted “”This is a government in crisis neglecting a country in crisis.”; whilst the Green Party have echoed calls for the pair to resign immediately. The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford added that the PM and Chancellor had “insulted the millions of people who faithfully followed the rules”, whilst Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Wales’ Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford further criticised the pair following the news.
It is now believed that opposition parties in Westminster have joined together in a show of cross party unity, in which they have called for Parliament to be recalled on Thursday (April 14) for an urgent statement from the Prime Minister and even a vote of no confidence. However this is unlikely as only Government can officially ask for such a move with Parliament currently on Easter recess and is set to return early next week.
Away from politics there has been much critics on social media and multiple voter polls have yielded a majority belief that the pair should resign. And the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group furthermore added there was “simply no way either the prime minister or chancellor can continue” in their Government jobs, calling their actions “truly shameless”.
Reacting to the critics both the PM and Mr Sunak have confirmed they have paid their individual fines through individual statements, with Mr Johnson giving a short interview from his retreat site of Chequers just after 6pm this evening. He said “Today I’ve received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police relating to a Downing Street Event on 19 June 2020. Let me say immediately, I have paid the fine and want to offer a full apology.”
“There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm, lasting less than 10 minutes, during which people I worked with passed on their good wishes (for my 56th birthday). At that time it did not occur to me this might have been a breach of the rules. The police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”
He concluded his short speech lasting just two minutes by saying: “I understand the anger many will feel that I myself fell short when it came to observing the very rules which the government I lead had introduced to protect the public. I accept in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better.”
Mr Sunak followed this with his own public apology following hours of silence as he tweeted: “I understand that for figures in public office the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.
“I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry. Like the prime minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time.”
A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson has confirmed that she has also paid the FPN, previously saying: “‘In the interests of transparency, Mrs Johnson can confirm she has been notified that she will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). She has not yet received any further details about the nature of the FPN.”
This evening has seen multiple Conservative MPs rally round their party leader including cabinet members such as Michael Gove, Dominic Rabb and Liz Truss; who have all tweeted their support. Readers are encouraged to look out for any statements from local MPs Caroline Dinenage and Suella Braverman following the announcements through their official websites or social media platforms such as Twitter.
PICTURED BY SKY NEWS (GETTY IMAGES): Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been fined for breaking lockdown rules.