Boris and Rishi say sorry over Partygate fines but insist they won't quit

12 April 2022, 18:11 | Updated: 12 April 2022, 21:42

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both issued apologies after being fined.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both issued apologies after being fined. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have insisted they won't resign after they were slapped with fixed penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules at No10.

The Prime Minister said he will pay his 'partygate' fine without challenging it, as will his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Speaking at Chequers, the Prime Minister said: "Today I've received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police relating to an event in Downing Street on June 19 2020.

"And let me say immediately that I've paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology and in the spirit of openness and humility I want to be completely clear about what happened on that date.

"My day began shortly after 7am and I chaired eight meetings in Number 10, including the Cabinet committee deciding Covid strategy.

Read more: PM, Carrie and Chancellor hit with fines for lockdown-busting party breaches

Read more: Johnson and Sunak accused of 'taking people for mugs' as calls grow for them to quit

"I visited a school in Hemel Hempstead, which took me out of Downing Street for over four hours and amongst all these engagements on a 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."

He added that he won't resign over the lockdown breach, saying the best thing he can do now is "focus on the job in hand".

The Prime Minister said he "spoke in completely good faith" when he repeatedly said all guidelines were followed in Downing Street as it did not occur to him that he was in breach of the rules.

"When I said that I spoke in completely good faith because as I've said to you just now I... at the time that I was standing up for nine minutes in the Cabinet Room where I work every day, it didn't occur to me that, as I say, that I was in breach of the rules," he said.

"I now humbly accept that I was."

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr Sunak said he's paid his fixed penalty notice and he is "focused on delivering for the British people", signalling he would stay in his job.

The Chancellor said: "I can confirm I have received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police with regards to a gathering held on June 19 in Downing Street.

"I offer an unreserved apology.

"I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.

"I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.

"Like the Prime Minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time."

It was confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Johnson, as well as his wife Carrie Johnson, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, had been given fixed penalty notices over parties held during the height of Covid.

The fine makes Boris Johnson first sitting British prime minister to have broken the law.

The fine issued to the PM today was for the 19 June 2020 birthday party thrown by his wife Carrie in the Cabinet room, which was also attended by Rishi Sunak.

A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson said she has paid the fixed penalty notice and “apologises unreservedly”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the issuing of a partygate fine to Boris Johnson marked the "first time in the history of our country that a Prime Minister has been found to be in breach of the law".

Speaking in Preston, the former director of public prosecutions said: "The British public made the most unimaginable, heart-wrenching sacrifices, and many were overcome by guilt.

"Guilt at not seeing elderly relatives, not going to funerals or weddings, or even seeing the birth of their own children.

"But the guilty men are the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

"They've dishonoured all of that sacrifice, they've dishonoured their office.

"This is the first time in the history of our country that a Prime Minister has been found to be in breach of the law, and then he lied repeatedly to the public about it. Britain deserves better, they have to go."

A poll of 2,464 adults by YouGov has revealed 57% of responders think Boris Johnson should resign as Prime Minister after being fined for attending a lockdown-busting party, while 30% say he should stay.

The same proportion said Rishi Sunak should also resign as Chancellor for being at the same event.

And 75% of responders said they thought Mr Johnson knowingly lied to Parliament about whether he broke lockdown rules, with just 12% saying he did not.

A number of Conservative MPs have defended the Prime Minister, with Nadine Dorries saying he has been "clear" about what happened.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wrote on Twitter: "PM has been clear about what happened on 19th June 2020 & offered a full apology. It was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room, less than 10 minutes during a busy working day. PM is at his best when delivering on the priorities of the British people which he will continue to do."

Boris Johnson’s Parliamentary aide, Conservative MP James Duddridge, also tweeted: "The PM should focus on Ukraine and delivering for the people of the UK. He is the right person to lead the party and the country. The PM has apologised and accepted responsibility. We need to be united in our resolve and move forward under his leadership."