12 April 2022

What happens now the PM and Chancellor will be fined over partygate?

12 April 2022

The Prime Minister, his wife and the Chancellor have all been fined for breaching coronavirus rules over gatherings held across Whitehall and in Downing Street while restrictions were in place.

Here, we look at what happens now.

– Will Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak lose their jobs?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Archive)

It is difficult to say, but nothing is likely to happen immediately.

In the case of the Chancellor, he has been under pressure over his wife’s finances and was reported to already have considered resigning over that.

It is unlikely the Prime Minister would step back, but Conservative MPs could force a vote of no confidence if they submit 54 letters to the 1922 Committee – 15% of the number of Conservative MPs.

– Is the PM likely to face a vote?

At the previous height of the partygate saga, at least 15 Tory MPs publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, with the number privately expected to be higher.

Some letters to 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady have since been withdrawn as the crisis in Ukraine deepened, and many of those who called for the PM to go previously have said now would not be the time to change leader.

– What about the timing?

Boris Johnson was due to be spending a few days at Chequers, his country retreat (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

The Met has announced the intention to issue the latest fines during parliamentary recess, meaning Mr Johnson will not face MPs until Tuesday at the earliest, and his spokesman will not be questioned by journalists until next week either.

Mr Johnson was due to be spending a few days at Chequers, his luxury country retreat.

– Will the Commons be recalled?

The Liberal Democrats have called for it, but it is not likely to happen as it is the Government that asks the Speaker to bring MPs back during the break.

– Do we know how much they have been fined?

No, but we do know the latest round was in relation to a gathering held on the PM’s birthday.

Boris Johnson with a birthday cake baked for him by staff at Bovingdon Primary Academy (Andrew Parsons/Downing Street/PA) (PA Media)

Previously, the first tranche of fines was reported to have been issued for the gathering held the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

The gathering for the PM’s birthday gathering on June 19, 2020, where a Tory MP said he had been “ambushed with a cake”, was the only event at which Mr Johnson, Mrs Johnson, and Mr Sunak were reported to have been present.

A No 10 spokesman said the Met had confirmed to them Tuesday’s fines related to that gathering.

Also reported to have been there was Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, who briefly attended while undertaking work there.

Neither the Met nor the ACRO Criminal Records Office – which is responsible for actually issuing the FPNs – would confirm who has received the fines or which gatherings they relate to.

– Is this a criminal conviction?

No. Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said on Twitter the FPNs were a “criminal sanction” instead. However he said that did mean “police believe he committed a criminal offence”.

– When was the last time a prime minister was involved in a criminal investigation?

When Sir Tony Blair was in No 10 he was questioned by police – but not under caution – over cash-for-honours allegations.

In July 2007 the former prime minister, who was questioned three times by officers, welcomed the decision not to prosecute anyone over the claims.

The police probe into the alleged sale of peerages ended in an announcement from the Crown Prosecution Service that there was insufficient evidence against anyone to secure a conviction in court.

– What happens now?

Mr Johnson is facing calls to apologise when Parliament returns on Tuesday, but it is likely he will make a statement before then.

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