Boris Johnson STILL won't admit he broke lockdown rules despite fine
Boris Johnson STILL won’t admit he broke lockdown rules despite paying £50 Partygate police fine for breaking lockdown rules – as he faces brutal showdown with MPs TOMORROW amid claims he STARTED a boozy gathering
- Boris Johnson remains defiant that no rules were broken amid Partygate
- His closest allies are insisting the PM did not break lockdown restrictions
- Mr Johnson will apologise again for Partygate before the Commons this week but is expected to focus on Ukraine and the Government’s new energy plan
- But the Prime Minister could yet be on the receiving end of more Partygate fines
- Meanwhile, cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg played down Johnson’s fine
- Mr Rees-Mogg denied the PM had breached the ministerial code in his actions
Boris Johnson will try to claim he did not break lockdown rules this week, despite paying a £50 Partygate police fine for breaking lockdown rules, as he faces an explosive confrontation with MPs.
The Prime Minister is expected to address the Commons tomorrow in his first appearance in Parliament since he became the first serving prime minister to break the law while in office.
But ahead of a statement likely to provoke uproar from the opposition and unhappy Tories alike, friends have suggested he will continue to insist that he did not break his own laws, despite apologising and paying the fixed-penalty notice (FPN) last week.
Mr Johnson has been accused of misleading the Commons over the lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street after he was fined for attending a birthday party thrown in his honour in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.
Yet he is expected to press on in defence of the gatherings in the Commons, reiterating that in his view no restrictions were broken while seeking to sweep Partygate under the rug by focusing on the war in Ukraine and the government’s new energy strategy.
A Downing Street source told The Times that Johnson would ‘of course apologise again’ in his statement before MPs tomorrow, but will say ‘we need to continue to focus on the huge priorities we need to deliver for our people,’ in reference to the energy plan and Ukraine.
A close ally of the Prime Minister said that while he accepted ‘mistakes were made’ he would tell MPs there was ‘always an exemption for work and people were working in close proximity in No 10 for very long hours’.
But Mr Johnson’s allies fear the worst is yet to come, with the June 2020 event thought to be the least problematic of those being investigated by police – raising concerns there is a ‘low bar’ that could see him face further fines.
It comes amid further worry that Mr Johnson was pictured drinking at other events being probed – including ‘instigating’ one session by pouring the booze himself.
Energy minister Greg Hands said Boris Johnson will ‘have his say’ on partygate in Parliament this week.
He told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister will be speaking to Parliament … this week.
‘I do strongly back the Prime Minister,’ he said. ‘I think the Prime Minister is getting on with the job, he’s delivered, and the Government has delivered, in anything from the vaccination programme through (to) the strong support for Ukraine.
‘There is a police investigation going on and we’ll have to see what develops, but as I say the Prime Minister will be in Parliament this week, explaining and facing questions from MPs about what has happened.’
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘This appears to be the PM’s latest pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible.
‘Boris Johnson defied his own law and then lied and lied and lied. While the British public were making huge sacrifices, he was rule-breaking.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is defiant in his position that he did not break coronavirus rules according to his closes allies, despite being slapped with a fine from the Met Police for his involvement in the Partygate scandal
Mr Johnson (pictured with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky) is expected to press on this week in defence of the gatherings in the Commons, asserting that no rules were broken while seeking to sweep Partygate under the rug by focusing on the war in Ukraine and the government’s new energy strategy
A group of police officers walk through Downing Street, in Westminster, London, during a protest outside the gates
A protester holds up a placard of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street
Understood to be of particular concern is the gathering to send off then director of communications Lee Cain on November 13, 2020 – an occasion the Prime Minister is understood to have been at the forefront of.
The PM is believed to have gathered staff around the press office table, which contained bottles of alcohol, before toasting Mr Cain – all captured by a photographer.
His presence at the forefront of the event would likely contradict statements made to the Commons.
Another insider said: ‘This was the usual press office Friday evening wash-up drinks. Boris came fumbling over, red box in tow, and he gathered the staff around the press office table, which did have bottles of alcohol on it.
‘He said he wanted to say a few words for Lee and started pouring drinks for people and drinking himself. He toasted him.’
Downing Street said it will not be commenting on the pictures, but denied the Prime Minister had organised the leaving drinks.
A Cabinet Minister told The Mail on Sunday that Tory MPs might not ‘hold the line’ if Mr Johnson was fined again, adding: ‘If he gets two, three or four fines, people can lose their nerve quickly.’
MPs are expected to vote on Thursday on whether a parliamentary committee should look into claims that he misled Parliament over Partygate.
Sources say Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is likely to allow two requests from opposition MPs for a so-called contempt motion into Mr Johnson’s conduct.
But Mr Johnson is expected to push his colleagues to ignore Partygate and focus on the upcoming local elections which take place on May 5.
Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg played down allegations that Mr Johnson breached the ministerial code over Partygate amid criticism of the Prime Minister from a respected historian.
Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, pictured, has played down allegations that Boris Johnson breached the ministerial code over Partygate
Cabinet minister Mr Rees-Mogg insisted that the ministerial code has little ‘constitutional significance’. ‘The Ministerial Code is not a legislative part of our constitution – it is a set of guidelines produced by the Prime Minister (pictured),’ he told the BBC. ‘I think that the Prime Minister spoke to Parliament in good faith’
Lord Hennessy, a crossbench peer, claimed Mr Johnson had ‘shredded the ministerial code’ and was ‘unworthy’ of the Queen, ‘her Parliament, her people and her kingdom’.
The professor of contemporary British history at Queen Mary, University of London also said he ‘cannot remember a day where I’ve been more fearful for the wellbeing of the constitution’.
But Cabinet minister Mr Rees-Mogg insisted that the ministerial code has little ‘constitutional significance’.
‘The Ministerial Code is not a legislative part of our constitution – it is a set of guidelines produced by the Prime Minister,’ he told the BBC.
‘I think that the Prime Minister spoke to Parliament in good faith.’
The code states: ‘Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.’
At the weekend, Caroline Nokes became the latest Tory backbencher to insist the PM should go, revealing she has not withdrawn the letter of no confidence she submitted earlier this year.
Sue Gray will not publish her report into lockdown parties at Downing Street until all police fines have been handed out. The Met will not confirm the interview stage of its investigation is complete in case new evidence makes further interrogations necessary – and yet more fines are issued
Mr Johnson will face MPs once more tomorrow and is still planning to visit India at the end of the week for defence, security and economic talks with the country’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile it emerged that Sue Gray will not publish her report into lockdown parties at Downing Street until all police fines have been handed out.
The Met will not confirm the interview stage of its investigation is complete in case new evidence makes further interrogations necessary – and yet more fines are issued.
As a result, the Gray report is unlikely to be released before May 5, the date of the local elections.
The former ethics chief wants to publish the potentially explosive dossier as soon as possible after April 26, when the House of Lords returns from its Easter break.
Today an exclusive poll for the MoS has Labour 11 points ahead of the Tories – the highest lead Deltapoll has recorded since the 2019 Election.
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