Monday, May 16

What will happen to Boris Johnson and his finance minister after the fines for Downing Street parties

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have been fined for breaking COVID-19 rules. Also the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson. How have you got here? Here is a summary of what happened and what can happen from now on.

Boris Johnson fined for Downing Street parties during the pandemic

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What has happened?

In early April, the ongoing police investigation into allegations of lockdown breaches at 10 Downing Street and other UK government offices resulted in the imposition of 20 fines. This Tuesday the London Metropolitan Police reported another 30 fines and in Downing Street they said that Johnson and Sunak were among those sanctioned. According to Carrie Johnson’s spokesperson, she was also served with a fine.

How it all started?

In November 2021, the newspaper TheDailyMirror published that a year earlier Johnson had given a speech during a farewell ceremony, when England was in full confinement due to COVID-19, and that in December a Christmas party had been held in Downing Street.

Government spokesmen insisted that the rules had been complied with at all times, but new accusations began to arrive. A week later, someone leaked to ITV a video showing Downing Street staff making jokes about what looked like a party in December 2020.

How many events have come to light?

In the period from mid-May 2020 to April 2021, there are reports of more than 15 events that allegedly broke the rules. One of them, of which the newspaper Guardian received a photograph, it was a cheese and wine gathering in the Downing Street garden on May 15, 2020. There are also allegations of a party advertised as “Bring Your Own Drink” in the same garden, and another in the Johnson’s flat held five days later when Dominic Cummings left his post (November 2020). There are other allegations of two “alcoholic” late-night parties taking place simultaneously in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021.

What are the meetings for which Johnson and Sunak have been suspended?

Although police said they would not reveal which party each fine was for, they did confirm that Boris Johnson’s fine related to a surprise birthday party thrown in honor of the prime minister on June 19, 2020, in Downing Street.

Sunak also attended that meeting, although it seemed to be partially by accident: he was ahead of the time when he had a meeting. Carrie Johnson’s ticket is believed to be related to that same party but that detail has not been confirmed.

Sunak is not believed to have attended any of the other parties under investigation but it is still possible that he and Carrie Johnson could be fined again for other acts.

Will Johnson or Sunak have to resign?

According to Labor MPs, the Liberal Democrats and almost all other opposition parties, the answer to that question is yes. His argument is that in the House of Commons both Johnson and Sunak categorically denied having broken any rules. That is to say, that the two lied to Parliament, an infraction that in the ministerial code is considered a reason for resignation.

But there doesn’t seem to be much desire among Conservative Party MPs to replace Johnson right now. In part because of the war in Ukraine, but also because the minister who appears to be his most likely replacement is Sunak, whose reputation has also suffered from the fine and from last week’s revelations about his wife’s tax efforts to avoid paying taxes. in the United Kingdom. That said, everything could change quickly: we are in uncharted political territory.

This Wednesday a member of the Johnson Government resigned in protest: Justice Secretary David Wolfson because, he said, the prime minister’s behavior is “inconsistent with the rule of law.”

What have Johnson and Sunak said?

In a video broadcast on television, Boris Johnson apologized but insisted that at the time he did not think the birthday party was illegal, which he described as “a brief meeting in the cabinet room” with colleagues from work and less than 10 minutes long. He added that he understood the anger in public opinion and that his actions “did not live up” to expectations.

Sunak has apologized “unreservedly”. A spokesman for Carrie Johnson said the prime minister’s wife had paid the penalty and that she “unreservedly apologized.”

What will happen next?

Downing Street says Johnson will not comment further until the police investigation is complete. But that could be many weeks away and MPs from the Labor Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party are already calling for a meeting in the House of Commons, currently in recess for Easter.

What happened to Sue Gray’s report?

Sue Gray, a senior official specializing in ethics investigations, was commissioned to produce a report after the media repeatedly reported on government parties. Her report was finished when the police belatedly decided that she would investigate possible criminal violations, so only a brief summary was published. According to authorities, Gray’s full report will be released when the police investigation is complete and about a week has passed to incorporate the police’s findings.

Has anything like this ever happened?

It is believed to be the first time a prime minister or minister has broken the law while in office.

Translation of Francisco de Zarate