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WORLD | 12-04-2022 11:12

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson fined by police over 'Partygate' scandal

Calls for resignation as Downing Street reveals UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other top officials are to be fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown laws and attending gatherings.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak are among a host of individuals who will be fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown laws, prompting calls on Tuesday for their resignation.

"The prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices," a Downing Street spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday.

The announcement came after London's Metropolitan Police said they had issued more than 50 fines over the so-called "Partygate" scandal, without disclosing the number or identities of those being fined.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, swiftly called for the two most senior members of the government to resign.

"Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public," Starmer tweeted. "They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better."

The political storm following the revelations of a swathe of lockdown-busting parties in and around Downing Street now threatens to engulf Johnson once more. He was left fighting for his political survival earlier this year after a number of lawmakers from his ruling Conservative Party withdrew their support for his leadership. Bereaved families of victims of the Covid pandemic also called on Johnson to resign.

"It's now indisputable that whilst bereaved families were unable to be at their loved ones' sides in their last moments, or stood at their funerals alone, the people responsible for protecting us in Downing Street were partying and rule breaking en masse," said Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. "It's plain as day that there was a culture of boozing and rule breaching at the highest level of government, whilst the British public was making unimaginable sacrifices to protect their loved ones and communities."

London police are investigating claims that Johnson and government officials organised and attended at least a dozen boozy events in 2020 and 2021 that violated Britain's then-strict virus curbs.

"The investigation into allegations of breaches of COVID-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street continues to progress," the Met said in a statement on Tuesday. "We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed. This includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material."

Johnson has already apologised for the parties, which included Christmas celebrations and a drink-fuelled gathering the evening before Prince Philip's funeral.

The prime minister, who initially denied any rule-breaking events had occurred in the complex where he lives and works, has consistently rejected personal wrongdoing. But his opponents accused him of misleading parliament by insisting the Downing Street events were work-related and within the rules.

The 57-year-old now faces renewed calls to explain why he attended social gatherings when his government was telling the public that they were illegal.

His office confirmed in February that Johnson had submitted his response to a police questionnaire on the matter but sources said he has not been interviewed in person by investigating officers.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine had eased the political pressure on Johnson, with the international crisis replacing "Partygate" in the daily headlines.

Johnson has sought to play a prominent role in the West's response to the war, hosting near-daily calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and sending UK military aid to the eastern European country.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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