Johnson’s allies confident he can avoid fine over ‘partygate’

Boris Johnson’s allies are increasingly confident he can avoid being fined over Downing Street parties held during coronavirus restrictions by arguing that he thought he was attending work events.

Johnson on Friday received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police, which is investigating at least 12 government parties that happened during Covid-19 restrictions, and the prime minister must respond within seven days.

With Labour demanding his resignation, Johnson’s political future may rest on whether the police issue him with a penalty, which would confirm that officers believed he had broken Covid-19 rules. If that occurs, ministers said sufficient numbers of Conservative MPs would respond by forcing a no-confidence vote in his leadership.

But Johnson’s allies insisted there was a “good chance” he will not be issued with a fine by the police over the so-called partygate scandal.

One ally said whether the prime minister was fined would hinge on if the police accept his “reasonable excuse” argument that he thought the gatherings he went to were work events.

“Legally the situation is not as black and white as it might seem,” added the ally. “Some of the gatherings may have become full-blown parties later but not while the PM was in attendance. He will argue he was there for work purposes.”

Johnson has hired a lawyer to handle his response to the Met investigation.

The most problematic gathering for Johnson may be one in the Number 10 garden in May 2020, when his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited more than 100 people to a “bring your own booze” event. It took place in England’s first lockdown, when social gatherings were prohibited.

Johnson told MPs last month he thought the gathering in the Downing Street garden was a work event. Allies said he was likely to tell the police that he did not see Reynolds’ email invite that said it was a “socially distanced drinks”, and instead assumed it was a work gathering.

The prime minister’s allies are also confident he will not be fined after attending a gathering in the cabinet room in Downing Street to celebrate his birthday in June 2020 because it involved work colleagues and was sprung on him at no notice.

Meanwhile, Johnson is expected to argue he was working during an alleged event in his Downing Street flat in November 2020 to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings, his former chief adviser.

Downing Street declined to comment.

Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, said Johnson’s anticipated line of defence was “ridiculous and embarrassing”, adding the prime minister was “doing what he always does, trying to weasel his way out of the consequences”.

Calling for his resignation, Rayner said: “The public have made up their mind on this and Boris Johnson is just insulting their intelligence now.”

Adam Wagner, a barrister, said the question the police would be considering in relation to Johnson was “whether any of the gatherings were considered reasonably necessary for work”.

He added: “There is no prospect, in my view, that a gathering entirely focused on celebrating his birthday, for example, would be reasonably necessary for work. It was primarily a social gathering and the question is whether they conclude he participated in such a gathering.”

More than 80 people are thought to have been contacted by the Met over parties held in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions, according to government insiders.

hello, I am Flora Khan and i work journalist in allnewshouse website i work in other sites like forbes and washington post with 5 years in experience.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.