Tories respond as rivals say 'you can't be rule-maker & rule-breaker'

Rivals tell Boris he ‘can’t be rule-maker AND ruler-breaker’ and urge him to quit as he, Carrie and Rishi get Partygate fines – but Tory MPs say now is NOT the time to force PM out, raging: ‘Don’t they know there is a war on?’

  • Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford lead calls for the Prime Minister to resign
  • No10 confirmed he and Rishi Sunak will be receiving fines over Partygate saga
  • But critics said ousting him during grave crisis in Europe would be a mistake 

Boris Johnson faced more calls to resign tonight over his Partygate fine from the leaders of the devolved administrations, but Tory backbenchers hit back at criticism, asking: ‘Don’t they know there’s a war on?’ 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford insisted ‘you can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker’, while his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘basic values of integrity and decency…demand that he go.’

The Met revealed on Tuesday that at least 30 more fines were issued over the Partygate saga, with a spokesman for Number 10 confirming Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be among the recipients. 

Calls for their resignations swelled in the hours after the announcement, with Mr Drakeford and Ms Sturgeon among those calling for them to step down.

But even the Prime Minister’s toughest critics said ousting him when Europe faced its gravest crisis since the Second World War would be a mistake.

And the police probe was branded a farce amid claims the lunchtime birthday party lasted less than ten minutes and the Prime Minister had only salad. 

It was also said that the cake was left uneaten in a Tupperware container.

In a TV interview from Chequers, Mr Johnson offered a ‘full apology’ after becoming the first serving prime minister to be punished for breaking the law. 

But he insisted it ‘didn’t occur’ to him that the gathering – in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020, to mark his 56th birthday – was a violation of coronavirus rules.

Boris Johnson faced more calls to resign tonight over his Partygate fine from the leaders of the devolved administrations, but Tory backbenchers hit back at criticism, asking: ‘Don’t they know there’s a war on?’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford insisted ‘you can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker’

Ministers and backbenchers rallied around Mr Johnson – however he faces the threat of further fines for attending other lockdown get-togethers.

Scotland Yard informed Mr Johnson he would receive a fixed penalty notice for attending the gathering on his birthday, as the total fines issued during the Partygate investigation climbed to 50.

Setting out his explanation for what happened, the PM said: ‘There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting for less than ten minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes.

‘And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. I now humbly accept that I was. But I think the best thing I can do now, having settled the fine, is focus on the job in hand.’

One source told the Daily Mail the cake ‘wasn’t cut or eaten’ and that the PM stood up ‘for the whole nine minutes’ that he was in the room.

Mrs Johnson, who also received a fine yesterday, is thought to have popped in for ‘less than five minutes’.

Mr Sunak went to the Cabinet Room for a Covid strategy meeting and happened upon the celebration by chance.

Labour last night led the chorus of demands from opposition parties for the Commons to be recalled from its Easter break to allow Mr Johnson to ‘tender his resignation’ in person to MPs.

Welsh First Minister Mr Drakeford tweeted: ‘You can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker. The Prime Minister has denied time and again that he did anything wrong. 

‘He has clearly broken the laws he made and asked people to follow. People are angry and upset. I don’t see how someone in this position can carry on.’

Ms Sturgeon also echoed that message, saying: ‘Boris Johnson must resign. He broke the law and repeatedly lied to parliament about it.

‘The basic values of integrity and decency – essential to the proper working of any parliamentary democracy – demand that he go.

‘And he should take his out of touch Chancellor with him.’  

But even his most vocal critics on the Tory benches conceded it would be wrong to oust him now.

Sir Roger Gale, the first Conservative MP to publicly declare he had sent a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, said he should stay to lead the country through the war in Ukraine.

The veteran backbencher said: ‘We are in the middle of an international crisis and I am not prepared to give Vladimir Putin the comfort of thinking that we are about to unseat the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and destabilise the coalition against Putin.

‘So any reaction to this is going to have to wait until we have dealt with the main crisis which is Ukraine.’

Fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who had previously called for Mr Johnson to resign, said: ‘This is not the time to remove the PM given the international situation, but this is not the end of this matter.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: ‘I was unable to visit my dad in hospital, so share the anger felt about Downing Street fines. But I also recognise the PM has apologised, accepted responsibility and reformed No 10.’

Mrs Johnson last night confirmed that she had paid her fixed penalty fine.

Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘basic values of integrity and decency…demand that he go’

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross – previously one of the leading voices in calling for the Prime Minister to resign over partygate – also said his removal would ‘destabilise’ the country as it tries to deal with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Mr Ross, who in March retracted his letter to the backbench 1922 Committee seeking a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, said he shared the ‘fury’ felt by the electorate at the breaches.

‘The public are rightly furious at what happened in Downing Street during the pandemic,’ he said in a statement.

‘I understand why they are angry and share their fury. The behaviour was unacceptable. The Prime Minister now needs to respond to these fines being issued.

‘However, as I’ve made very clear, in the middle of war in Europe, when Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and the UK is Ukraine’s biggest ally, as President Zelensky said at the weekend, it wouldn’t be right to remove the Prime Minister at this time.

‘It would destabilise the UK Government when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression and the murdering of innocent Ukrainians.’

But Mr Ross’ view was not shared by former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson – who was appointed to the House of Lords by the Prime Minister.

On Twitter, she said: ‘Met confirms what we already knew: the PM introduced liberty-curtailing rules for public health reasons.

‘This caused huge hardship for those separated from ill or dying loved ones.

‘He then broke the rules he imposed on the country & lost the moral authority to lead. He should go.’

Mr Ross and Ms Davidson are due to hit the campaign trail together on Wednesday, ahead of the May council elections. 

Nine minutes, no cake… and unopened beer: What REALLY happened at PM’s so-called birthday party – weeks after he nearly died

Boris Johnson was there for only nine minutes, and a birthday cake brought by an aide did not even leave its Tupperware box.

But despite this, the Prime Minister was last night fending off calls for his resignation after being issued with a fine for attending this surprise birthday gathering in Downing Street.

The impromptu celebration on June 19, 2020, to celebrate his 56th birthday was attended by his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds, who arrived carrying their seven-week-old son Wilfred in her arms.

In January, the revelation of a ‘birthday party’ for the Prime Minister rocked Westminster because, at the time of the party, the British people had been told they could not attend indoor gatherings.

But far from it being a raucous occasion, sources claim the Prime Minister used the brief gathering in the Cabinet room as an opportunity to eat a quick salad for lunch during a day on which he chaired eight meetings.

Sources say that the Prime Minister probably wasn’t even aware that a birthday cake, brought by a special adviser, sat sealed inside a Tupperware box.

Boris Johnson was presented with a cake by pupils during his visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy on the day of the event in question

Mr Johnson – who only two months before had been in hospital where he had nearly died from Covid – is said to have stood for the whole nine minutes, before being whisked off for a meeting about the pandemic.

One report claimed that Scotland Yard had a picture of the Prime Minister with a can of beer.

But one source said: ‘There was a suggestion of an unopened four-pack. I can’t remember if that’s true or not. I certainly don’t remember anybody actually having a drink.’

The PM’s day had started with a personal training session soon after 7am, before he attended his first meeting with senior staff at 9.05am. Shortly after 10am he set off for a visit to Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where he met up with Gavin Williamson, who was then the education secretary.

As part of the visit, Mr Johnson was pictured social distancing with pupils in the playground, and washing hands with year six youngsters, to show how to stay safe during the Covid pandemic. Pupils also gave him a cake to celebrate his birthday.

At 2.20pm he returned to Number 10 and sat down to grab a small salad lunch in the Cabinet room during which colleagues he had been working with ‘popped in’ to pass on their birthday greetings. It had been claimed that he was presented with a cake by his fiancee, but yesterday sources were adamant that Carrie had not brought a cake and said that she was only there for a few minutes.

They said she attended the event with their son and stood by alongside some socially distanced staff. One insider said: ‘The Prime Minister was there for a very short time. He was eating a salad lunch in the Cabinet room with people he worked with all day. People kept popping in.’

The cake was actually brought in by a special adviser, and the PM may not even have seen it, the insider said.

‘Someone bought some packet supermarket sandwiches for people, and apple juice. It wasn’t a party by any stretch of the imagination.’

In January, one report claimed that up to 30 people had attended the gathering.

But asked whether the number of people present was as high as 30, a source said yesterday: ‘I’d be amazed if it was that high.’

Another source said that if there was a cake it was not cut or eaten. A separate source said Mr Johnson was only there for nine minutes, in the half hour between 2.30 and 3pm. ‘It was straight into a meeting about Covid afterwards,’ the source said. ‘That’s the only reason Rishi walked in’.

Police decided this event attended by Mr Johnson, his then fiancee Carrie Symonds and staff did not warrant an investigation

In February Mr Sunak was forced to admit that he had been present at the birthday gathering. But he said he had only been there because he was due to attend a Covid meeting.

It seems the PM and the Chancellor attended this Cabinet committee meeting from 3pm to 4pm, with further meetings in the afternoon. The Prime Minister’s official work diary that day finished at 5.30pm, earlier than usual. Lulu Lytle, the fashionable interior designer, who was undertaking a lavish refurbishment of the PM’s flat at the time, also attended the gathering.

At the time a spokesman for Soane Britain, the luxury designer that she co-founded, said: ‘Lulu entered the Cabinet room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the Prime Minister.’

Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s then principal private secretary who had organised a separate ‘bring your own booze’ party on May 20, was also said to have attended.

He has since left Number 10 as part of the post-Partygate clear-out of Mr Johnson’s operation.

Mr Johnson, Carrie and Downing Street staff were pictured having drinks in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020, but police decided that this cheese and wine gathering did not warrant an investigation.

Last night Mr Johnson said that ‘in all frankness’, it never occurred to him on June 19, 2020 that he had been in breach of the rules. He said: ‘My day began shortly after 7am and I chaired eight meetings in Number 10, including the Cabinet committee deciding Covid strategy. I visited a school in Hemel Hempstead, which took me out of Downing Street for over four hours.

‘And amongst all these engagements, on the day that happened to be my birthday, there was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm, lasting for less than 10 minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes.

‘And I have to say, in all frankness, at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. But of course, the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.’

He now has to wait to see whether the public – who will have a chance to deliver their verdict on his conduct at next month’s local elections – accept his explanation.

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