Lord Wolfson resigns from government over Number 10 COVID breaches

First minister QUITS over PM’s Partygate law-breaking: Tory peer Lord Wolfson resigns from government over ‘scale and nature’ of Downing Street COVID breaches

  • Conservative peer David Wolfson quits as a justice minister and launches a broadside against the PM 
  • Scottish and Welsh First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford lead calls for Prime Minister to resign
  • No10 confirmed he and Rishi Sunak will be among 30 recipients of fines over the ongoing Partygate saga
  • But critics said ousting him as Europe faces its gravest crisis since the Second World War would be a mistake
  • Full dossier into illegal Downing Street gatherings is expected to be published over the coming days
  • Sources say the revelations in the report are not likely to make for enjoyable reading for Mr Johnson and No10
  • Mr Sunak, meanwhile, is said to have agonised for hours over whether to resign after being told of his fine 

Conservative peer David Wolfson has quit as a justice minister as he launched a broadside against Boris Johnson following the Prime Minister’s police fine for breaking Covid rules.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar has resigned from government a day after the PM revealed he had paid a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) over a bash in Number 10 in June 2020, on his 56th birthday.

A defiant Mr Johnson has dismissed renewed calls for him to resign after he was found by the Metropolitan Police to have broken Coronavirus guidelines, insisting he wants to ‘get on and deliver the mandate that I have’.

But the departure of a government minister over the Partygate scandal will ratchet up the pressure on the PM as he battles to stay in No10. 

In a resignation letter to Mr Johnson, Lord Wolfson told the PM it was ‘not just a question of what happened in Downing Street, or your own conduct’.

‘It is also, and perhaps more so, the official response to what took place,’ he said . ‘As we obviously do not share that view of these matters, I must ask you to accept my resignation.’

The barrister added that the ‘scale, context and nature’ of Covid rule breaches in Downing Street ‘mean that it would be inconsistent with the rule of law for that conduct to pass with constitutional impunity’. 

He said this was especially the case ‘when many in society complied with the rules at great personal cost, and others were fined or prosecuted for similar, and apparently more trivial, offences.’

More than 50 people have now been fined as part of Scotland Yard’s investigation into Partygate allegations – including Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Lord Wolfson said that ‘recent disclosures lead to the inevitable conclusion that there was repeated rule-breaking, and breaches of criminal law, in Downing Street’. 

Earlier today, the PM was warned he needs to explain to angry Tories why he told them he did not break lockdown rules, after it was revealed he could face Partygate fines totalling £10,000. 

The Prime Minister’s former Brexit Minister Lord Frost, and the Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross today backed him to remain in No10 for now but said that he has serious questions to answer over the whole affair.   

Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak apologised and paid up yesterday after being handed fixed penalty notices (FPNs) over a party for the PM’s 56th birthday in June 2020.

The embarrassing evidence of lawbreaking – the first by a serving prime minister – came after months in which Mr Johnson has insisted to MPs and the public that he broke no rules.

Even in his apology yesterday he admitted that he did not believe that the June 19th event broke any of the lockdown restrictions that his Government had introduced. 

And in previous months he has spoken in the Commons to deny rule-breaking. Knowingly misleading the House is a resigning matter, as set out in the ministerial code of conduct – which the PM himself polices.

Lord Frost, who has become a critic of the Government since he resigned last year, today warned that the scandal will ‘dog the Prime Minister’ unless he can explain himself to MPs and to the public. 

Speaking on LBC, he said: ‘I don’t think the one fixed penalty notice is in itself grounds for resignation. But I think it’s not possible just to say: ”That was then and this is now, let’s move on, the world is different”, as the Government is trying to this morning.

‘I don’t think that’s quite good enough. First of all, I think, you know, the Prime Minister is on record saying to Parliament that all the rules were observed and there were no parties. That’s obviously not the case.

‘And I think it’s very important in our constitutional system that correct information is given to Parliament, so I hope the Prime Minister comes to the House on Tuesday and makes it clear what the actual position is.’

Meanwhile Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said his support for Mr Johnson did not mean he did not have to explain himself. 

On the local election campaign trail he was asked by BBC Radio Scotland if the PM’s protestations over Downing Street parties in recent months were true, Mr Ross replied: ‘Clearly not, because the Met Police have decided that fixed penalty notices had to be issued.

‘The Prime Minister has to explain why he said that and what he believed to be the case – clearly he thought something different. 

‘But the Met Police have been very clear, they’ve issued these fixed penalty notices, they have been accepted by the Prime Minister, they have been paid by the Prime Minister and I think that process is right, that the police were allowed time to investigate this, to come to a conclusion and no one is above the law and that has been proven by the issuing of these fines to the Prime Minister and others in Downing Street.’

He continued: ‘The Prime Minister has to explain why he said that to Keir Starmer and statements he’s made at the despatch box in the House of Commons, because it’s quite clear now – with the Met Police investigation, the issuing of the fine and the acceptance of that fine by the Prime Minister – that that statement is not correct.’      

Lord Frost, who has become a critic of the Government since he resigned last year, today warned that the scandal will ‘dog the Prime Minister’ unless he can explain himself to MPs and to the public.

Meanwhile Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross (pictured today with Ruth Davidson) said his support for Mr Johnson did not mean he did not have to explain himself. Asked if the PM’s protestations over Downing Street parties in recent months were true, Mr Ross replied: ‘Clearly not, because the Met Police have decided that fixed penalty notices had to be issued.’

Rishi Sunak reportedly had to be talked out of leaving his post because it would have piled more pressure on the Prime Minister to follow suit

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

The PM may face more woe over the coming days, amid claims Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal is due next week and ‘will not make comfortable reading’

Boris and Carrie Johnson (pictured on election night in 2019) have both received fines over the Partygate scandal

Mr Sunak is said to have agonised for hours over whether to resign, spending the afternoon discussing his future with aides and allies, according to the Times

Boris Johnson repeatedly denied deliberately breaking lockdown rules

December 1, 2021: Mr Johnson was grilled at Prime Minister’s Questions by Keir Starmer over Partygate, in relation to a December 20202 Christmas party.

In response the PM replied: ‘What I can tell the right honourable gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in Number 10.’

 December 7: As fallout from the Christmas party continued, Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit: ‘What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed.’ 

Asked if he investigated personally, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’

December 8: After a leaked video shows No10 staff joking about the party, Mr Johnson told a press conference: ‘All the evidence I can see is that people in this building have stayed within the rules. 

‘If that turns out not to be the case, and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police or whoever, then of course there will be proper sanction.’

December 13: Quizzed about a Christmas quiz in 2020 he was pictured at, Mr Johnson said: ‘I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules.’

December 15: At another press conference the PM said: ‘On your point about rules, I follow the rules. Everybody across politics should follow the rules.’

December 21: After images emerge of Mr Johnson having drinks with colleagues in the No10 garden in May 2020, he said: ‘Those were people at work, talking about work.’

January 12, 2022: Mr Johnson apologises after it emerges staff had a party the night before Prince Phillip’s funeral in May 2020. But adds: ‘I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules, a breach of the Covid rules.’

April 12: Mr Johnson apologises after paying £50 police fine for attending a surprise birthday party organised by his wife in June 2020. But he tells broadcasters: ‘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.’

As well as his birthday party Mr Johnson has been placed at several other events also being investigated by Scotland Yard’s Operation Hillman, for which fines have yet to be dished out. 

It means that the £50 he paid yesterday may not be the end of the matter. Human rights barrister Adam Wagner told Sky News the PM could end up paying more than £10,000 in total due.

‘Each one doubles, so if the Prime Minister attended six gatherings and five of which he’s at risk of getting a fixed penalty notice for – if he get’s a fixed penalty notice in order for each one then he could end up paying over £10,000.’

When asked whether he thinks there are further fines in the pipeline for Mr Johnson, the lawyer and Covid legislation expert said: ‘I would be surprised if there aren’t.

‘I always thought the birthday party was very straight forward, but there are other gatherings which are even more straightforward – the December 18 and the Christmas party and various leaving dos.’ 

It came as the first Tory MP broke ranks to demand Mr Johnson step down after being found to have broken the law.

Nigel Mills, who represents Amber Valley in Derbyshire, told BBC Radio Derby: ‘In all conscience I don’t think a prime minister can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place and he was on the TV every few nights, reminding us all that we should observe.

‘We have to have higher standards than that of people at the top. He has been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable, in my view.’

Meanwhile friends of a furious Mr Sunak have blamed the Johnson’s for his Partygate fine and had to be talked out of quitting as Chancellor last night – relenting only because it would have taken down the Prime Minister as well.  

The event on June 19, 2020 was organised by Mrs Johnson and the Chancellor is said to only have been present briefly as he made his way to a meeting in the building. 

One source said the Chancellor had been ‘dragged into this’ damaging crisis because of the party arranged by Carrie, while a second told the Times: ‘Rishi’s view is he was just there for a meeting, and now he’s getting humiliated for something he never wanted to do. He is a man of honour and he genuinely is thinking about whether he can still be part of this.’

The situation marks a new low in the relations between No10 and 11. They are already at loggerheads over a series of leaks about Mr Sunak’s wife and her non-dom tax status, and the Chancellor’s own US Green Card immigration status. 

Some in No11 believe the leaks came from next door in a bid to weaken the ambitious finance chief, something denied by the PM.  

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

May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY 

 A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced

May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH

  A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol

JUNE 19 2020: ‘AMBUSHED BY CAKE’ 56th BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR BORIS

Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for Mr Johnson organised by his now wife Carrie. Rishi Sunak has admitted he ‘popped in’ on his way to a meeting elsewhere in Downing Street.

Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.

It was after this gathering that Tory MP Conor Burns claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘ambushed by a cake’.

No 10 denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.

November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO 

The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.  

November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO 

Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.  

December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ

Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.  

December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.

December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50. 

April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO 

Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.  

Calls for their resignations swelled in the hours after the announcement, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon among those calling for the country’s two top parliamentarians to step down. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps attempted to defend the PM in interviews this morning. He told Sky News Mr Johnson is ‘human’ and humans ‘sometimes make mistakes’. 

It’s something that happened in error, and as I have said, I’ve spoken to him, he is incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing.’ Mr Shapps added.

‘He knows that it was stupid, indefensible. But he didn’t set out to break the law, and he has paid the fixed penalty notice fine, and has a very big job to do.’

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak do not seem to understand how ‘deeply offensive’ their lockdown breaches are.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Reeves said: ‘Fresh leadership would mean that we will have a government that could concentrate on the issues that we need to focus on as a country.’

Asked if Mr Johnson’s claim that he unknowingly broke the rules was a sufficient explanation, Ms Reeves said: ‘No, it would not do because the Prime Minister still at this stage, even after receiving this fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police, is still unable to say what people, especially those who have made huge sacrifices in the pandemic, want him to say – is that he was wrong, he did something that was wrong, he understands that, he understood that he has lied to Parliament and lied to the country.

‘But he is still obfuscating and saying, oh he still didn’t really realise he was breaking the rules and he just happened to be in this room at the time… It’s just not good enough.

‘People have never made, collectively or personally, the sacrifices that were made during the pandemic outside of wartime and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor still don’t seem to understand how deeply offensive it is, especially to those who lost loved ones, or who were not there for the birth of their child, or for the death of a loved one.’ 

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

His former Brexit minister Lord Frost also offered support today – but not unconditionally. He told LBC: ‘I don’t think the one fixed penalty notice is in itself grounds for resignation.

‘But I think it’s not possible just to say: ”That was then and this is now, let’s move on, the world is different”, as the Government is trying to this morning.

‘I don’t think that’s quite good enough. First of all, I think, you know, the Prime Minister is on record saying to Parliament that all the rules were observed and there were no parties. That’s obviously not the case.

‘And I think it’s very important in our constitutional system that correct information is given to Parliament, so I hope the Prime Minister comes to the House on Tuesday and makes it clear what the actual position is.’

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. 

A police officer talks to protesters in front of the entrance to Downing Street in London today

The Prime Minister, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak apologised and paid up yesterday after being handed fixed penalty notices (FPNs) over a party for the PM’s 56th birthday in June 2020

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.

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.

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.

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’

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

‘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. 

How Boris Johnson’s line on Partygate has changed

Here is what the Prime Minister has said in response to the claims which have been made.

May 15, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (cheese and wine)

In December 2021, a photo emerged showing Boris and Carrie Johnson, former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and Mr Johnson’s then principal private secretary Martin Reynolds sitting around a table in the No 10 garden during the first national lockdown.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 20 2021: ‘Those were meetings of people at work. This is where I live and it’s where I work. Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.’

May 20, 2020: Garden party at Downing Street (BYOB)

An email, leaked to ITV, from Mr Reynolds to more than 100 Downing Street employees, asked them to ‘bring your own booze’ to an evening gathering.

The Prime Minister admitted attending for 25 minutes but insisted he thought the gathering was a work event, while No 10 said Mr Johnson did not know about the event beforehand.

But his former chief aide Dominic Cummings said this was not true, and he had warned it was against the rules.

Mr Johnson said during a visit to the Finchley Memorial Hospital in north London: ‘I want to begin by repeating my apologies to everybody for the misjudgments that I’ve made, that we may have made in No 10 and beyond, whether in Downing Street or throughout the pandemic.

‘Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that… was not a work event, and as I said in the House of Commons, when I went out into that garden I thought that I was attending a work event.’

On February 20 2022 he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: ‘You’re just going to have to wait until the process (police investigation) is complete – there is literally not a bean I can tell you about that, as much as I would like to.’

November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide and the Johnsons’ flat party

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and close ally of Mr Cummings.

There were also allegations the Prime Minister’s then fiancee, now wife, hosted parties in the couple’s flat at No 11, with one such event said to have taken place on November 13 2020, the night Mr Cummings departed No 10.

Mr Johnson told the Commons on December 8 2021: ‘I’m sure that, whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’

It was then reported in February 2022 that PM had been seen heading up to his flat on the night in question. The Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say if he was there.

December 15, 2020: Downing Street quiz

The Sunday Mirror published an image in December 2021 showing the Prime Minister flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in No 10 the previous year.

Downing Street admitted Mr Johnson ‘briefly’ attended the quiz after photographic evidence emerged, but insisted it was a virtual event.

In an interview on December 13 2021, the Prime Minister said: ‘I can tell you that I certainly broke no rules – the whole thing will be looked into by the Cabinet Secretary, and what I’m focused on, frankly, is the vaccine rollout.’

On February 9 2022, at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson was challenged by Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who said the image appeared to show ‘one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened’.

He added: ‘Will the Prime Minister be referring this party to the police as it is not one of the ones currently being investigated?’

Mr Johnson responded: ‘In what he has just said, I’m afraid he is completely in error.’

Challenged again during PMQs, Mr Johnson added: ‘That event already has been submitted for investigation.’

December 18, 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

According to reports which first emerged at the end of November 2021, officials and advisers made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged secret Santa gifts – although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson said in an interview on December 7 2021: ‘I have satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.’

He said in the House of Commons the next day: ‘I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.’

The Prime Minister added: ‘I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken.’

April 16, 2021: Leaving parties on the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on April 16 2021, as the country was in mourning after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

One was for former Downing Street director of communications James Slack and the second for a photographer, and they were later reported to have merged.

The newspaper said No 10 staff partied until the early hours of the morning in a seven-hour drinking session.

Wine and spirits with mixers were said to have been served in disposable plastic cups, and at one point alcohol was reportedly spilled on an office printer.

Takeaway pizzas were reported to have been ordered in and some of the revellers were said to have used a slide belonging to Mr and Mrs Johnson’s son, Wilfred.

The following day the Queen sat alone, socially distanced from her family, as she said goodbye to her husband.

No 10 previously said an apology had been extended to Buckingham Palace.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I deeply and bitterly regret that that happened.’

He added: ‘I can only renew my apologies both to Her Majesty and to the country for misjudgments that were made, and for which I take full responsibility.’

Here is what the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said on four occasions about partygate:

December 7, 2021:

Speaking during a session of questions to the Treasury in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak denied attending parties when asked if he was at reported Christmas gatherings in December 2020.

Labour MP Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) had asked: ‘The Chancellor was evasive when interviewed by the media last week but we need a clear answer on this very important point because many people across the country made great personal sacrifice during the lockdown.

‘So will the Chancellor categorically deny in the House that he or any of his officials or spads (special advisers) attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties on November 27 or December 18 last year?’

Mr Sunak replied: ‘No, I did not attend any parties.’

January 18, 2022:

The Chancellor abruptly ended an interview when pressed if he would give his full support to the Prime Minister. At the time six Conservative MPs had publicly called for Mr Johnson to go.

In his first interview since Mr Johnson’s apology to MPs over the scandal, the Chancellor said he accepted Mr Johnson’s explanation that he was not warned in advance about a No 10 drinks party during lockdown in May 2020.

‘Of course I do. The Prime Minister set out his understanding of this matter last week in Parliament. I refer you to his words,’ he told broadcasters.

‘Sue Gray is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I fully support the Prime Minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.’

Asked if the Prime Minister should resign if he lied to Parliament, Mr Sunak said: ‘I am not going to get into hypotheticals, the ministerial code is clear on these matters.’

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson had his unequivocal support, Mr Sunak swiftly broke off the interview, walking off with a microphone still attached.

February 3, 2022:

The Chancellor acknowledged he was in the Cabinet Room when No 10 staff held a birthday gathering for Boris Johnson on June 19 2020.

Mr Sunak told the BBC he had been there for a meeting to discuss the Covid-19 situation.

‘I am in the Cabinet Room for a Covid meeting much like the other 100, 200, God knows how many other Covid meetings,’ he said.

‘You’re asking me about something that happened almost two years ago. I went to that Cabinet Room, as I did many other times for Covid meetings. And it’s right that we allow this police investigation.’

The Chancellor also acknowledged that the Government needed to rebuild public confidence following the disclosures over parties during lockdown.

‘I can appreciate people’s frustration. And I think it’s now the job of all of us in government, all politicians, to restore people’s trust,’ he said.

February 11, 2022:

Mr Sunak told Sky News he had not received a questionnaire from the Met Police at that time and, asked whether he expected to receive a form to complete, he replied: ‘No… well, I don’t know.’

He also replied ‘no’ when asked if he believed he had broken lockdown rules.

Pressed about whether he still had confidence in Mr Johnson, the Chancellor added: ‘The Prime Minister has my total support.’

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.

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.’

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

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’.

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.

Will Boris now have to resign? Will he be forced out? Can he appeal? Will he get a criminal record? All your questions answered after the PM is fined over Partygate  

Will Boris Johnson now have to resign over Partygate?

This is the question that is hanging over Number 10 after it was revealed both the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are to be fined over the Partygate scandal.

Until now, Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to say whether he would quit if he was fined by police for breaking Covid laws.

He has promised to say ‘something meaningful’ once the Metropolitan Police investigation into Downing Street parties is over.

By convention, government ministers found to have misled parliament are expected to resign.

Opposition parties have claimed that Mr Johnson is already guilty of misleading the House after he previously told MPs that Covid guidance ‘was followed and the rules were followed at all times’ in Downing Street.

Yet it seems unlikely, for a man who long-dreamed of being in No10 before he fulfilled that ambition in 2019, that he would offer to go voluntarily. 

Could the PM be forced out?

If he does not choose to resign himself, Mr Johnson’s fate could still be decided by Tory MPs.

Under Conservative rules, if at least 15% of Tory MPs submit a no-confidence letter then the party leader – in this case Mr Johnson – has to face a confidence vote over their leadership.

The figure currently equates to 54 Conservative MPs having to write to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Party’s powerful 1922 Committee.

It has been said that, when Mr Johnson first faced calls to resign among Tory MPs over Partygate at the beginning of this year, the number of letters received by Sir Graham reached the low-30s.

However, the actual number of letters is a closely-guarded secret and is only known by Sir Graham himself. He will only publicly comment once the 15% threshold is reached. 

If Mr Johnson lost a vote of confidence, which would be secret ballot, there would be a leadership contest and the PM would be barred from standing.

However, if he won, Mr Johnson would be immune from another no-confidence vote for a year.

Gavin Barwell, a former MP who was Theresa May’s chief of staff when she survived a confidence vote in 2018, predicted Mr Johnson would not decide to resign himself.

‘Whether he stays is in the hands of Conservative MPs,’ Mr Barwell said.

‘What they decide will define their and the party’s reputation for the forseeable future.’

What about Rishi Sunak?

It has been suggested that Mr Johnson could also be forced to resign if Mr Sunak himself decides to quit after being fined.

The theory goes that should the Chancellor resign – and Mr Sunak has faced a tumultous few days during a row over his family’s finances and tax arrangements – it would place huge pressure on Mr Johnson to do the same.

But one Tory MP told MailOnline that even Mr Sunak resigning might not be enough to force the PM out.

‘I think that’s a bit priced in at the moment, so not as spectacular as it may have been,’ they said.

What exactly has the PM been fined for? 

 No10 revealed that Mr Johnson had been issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) due to a gathering in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street on 19 June 2020 – which was the PM’s 56th birthday.

It has been claimed that up to 30 people attended a celebratory gathering that afternoon with picnic food from Marks & Spencer and a cake. 

Can the PM and Chancellor appeal?

Yes, both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak can appeal their Covid fines.

The Met Police have said that individuals are allowed to dispute a FPN.

According to ACRO, the police body that processes FPNs, those who do not want to pay a fine, cannot pay, or disagree with any of the information within their FPN, can contest it and request a court hearing.

The relevant police force will then review an individual’s case and decide whether to withdraw the fine or proceed the matter to court.  

In the case of Partygate, the Met Police has said that Scotland Yard officers may decide to pursue matters in a magistrates’ court if individuals choose to appeal.

Alternatively, once a fine is paid, police said the matter would be ‘considered closed’.

It seems unlikely that either Mr Johnson or Mr Sunak would want to risk having to appear in court by deciding to appeal their fines.

How much are the PM and Chancellor being fined?

An exact sum is yet to be revealed, while the size of a fine also depends on how many Covid rule breaches Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak are found to have committed. 

Scotland Yard have said their Partygate investigation is still not complete, which leaves open the possibility of further fines being issued to senior figures.

In England, people aged over 18 can be fined £100 for a first offence of breaching Covid rules, which is lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days.

A £200 fine is issued for a second offence, which doubles for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400 per offence.

Some have suggested that Mr Johnson potentially faces fines of up to £12,300 if reports of his attendance at rule-breaking gatherings are all found to be true.

When will the PM pay his fine?

Those who recieve a fine for breaching Covid rules have to pay their FPN in full within 28 days, unless otherwise stated, from the date of their letter informing them they have been penalised.

Payment can be made online or via cheque.

Some fines are subject to a 14-day ‘grace period’, which provides an opportunity for those penalised to pay a reduced amount.

However, this grace period – which only applies to some FPNs – cannot be extended if payment is not made before the deadline.

When was the last time a sitting PM was penalised for having broken the law?

Never. Mr Johnson has created history with his Covid fine.  

Will the PM and Chancellor now have a criminal record?

Not necessarily.

According to ACRO, fines issued for Covid offences are non-recordable.

This means, whether an FPN is paid or contested, it will not be recorded on the Police National Computer, although local records may be held by the relevant force.  

What parties were there?

Twelve alleged lockdown-busting parties held between 2020 and 2021 are being investigated by Scotland Yard.

They include a gathering held in the Downing Street garden, an event on Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday, parties in the PM’s Downing Street flat, a Number 10 Christmas party, and boozy leaving dos on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. 

From a ‘suitcase full of booze’, a BIRTHDAY CAKE for Boris, ‘BYOB parties and one-year-old Wilfred’s broken swing: The Downing Street parties that broke the law while the rest of the country was locked down

From a suitcase ‘full of booze’ to ‘BYOB’ bashes and a raucous garden gathering that ended in baby Wilf’s swing being broken – the details of the parties held at Downing Street while the rest of the nation was in lockdown caused widespread fury.

Boris Johnson is believed to have attended at least six illegal parties investigated by the Met, meaning his fine – announced today – could have been for any one or even all of them.

These include his 56th birthday party in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 where, in the words of one Tory MP, he was ‘ambushed by a cake’.

Embattled Chancellor Rishi attended the gathering as did the PM’s wife, Carrie, who were also both fined today. The Met has still not revealed which events their fixed penalty notices were for.

Downing Street are said to have held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Mr Johnson attended, with staff even investing in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their beer, prosecco and wine cold.

Government aides were encouraged by the prime minister, who regularly oversaw the gatherings, to ‘let off steam’ at the regular drinks which would often continue until the early hours, sources told The Mirror.

Staff took turns to stock up on drinks at the local Tesco Metro with a wheely suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, extraordinary pictures revealed.

At the time, households were not allowed to mix indoors or in most outdoor places with exemptions for people in support bubbles, and a maximum of six people were allowed to meet in some outdoor public spaces like parks and public gardens.

Today’s fines are particularly embarrassing given the Prime Minister, speaking in the Commons in December after allegations about parties in Downing Street first emerged, said ‘all guidance was followed completely in No 10’.

Below are details of all the gatherings that were investigated by police. 

BYOB garden party – May 20, 2020:

A leaked email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, showed No 10 staff were invited to ‘bring your own booze’ to an event in the Downing Street garden.

Mr Johnson admitted he was there for 25 minutes but said he thought it was a ‘work event’ to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic. 

Mr Johnson with a cake during a visit to a primary school on the day of his 56th birthday. A lockdown-breaking bash was held later that day 

Cabinet Office gathering – June 18, 2020

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

The event had not previously been disclosed but The Telegraph said the official in question is former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.

The newspaper said it understood about 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed. 

56th birthday party for the PM – June 19, 2020

Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for Mr Johnson organised by his now wife Carrie.

Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.

It was after this gathering that Tory MP Conor Burns claimed Mr Johnson had been ‘ambushed by a cake’.  

No 10 denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.

‘Dom’s Gone’ bash: November 13, 2020

Mrs Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and her husband live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim ‘total nonsense’.

But reports have since suggested that the Prime Minister was seen heading up to the flat on the night in question, with the Mail On Sunday stating that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, were heard coming from the residence.

Mrs Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and her husband live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure

Mr Cummings, former de facto chief-of-staff at No 10, has alleged there are photographs of parties held at the flat during lockdown and said he has spoken to people who heard music coming from the Johnsons’ accommodation on the night he left Downing Street.

According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings.

Lee Cain leaving do: November 13, 2020

Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings. 

Other bashes that police didn’t investigate  

‘Cheese and wine’ garden party: May 15, 2020

The Prime Minister and his wife – apparently holding their newborn baby, Wilf – were seen sitting at a table with two people while another 13 were pictured with bottles of alcohol nearby at a table and on the lawn on Friday May 15, 2020. 

The ‘cheese and wine’ party in No10’s garden on May 15, 2020

Second staff leaving do: November 27, 2020

The Mirror reported that the PM gave a farewell speech to an aide at the end of November while the lockdown in England was still in place.

Other reports have said the leaving do was for Cleo Watson, a senior Downing Street aide and ally of Mr Cummings.

Department for Education party: December 10, 2020

The DfE confirmed a social event happened after The Mirror reported that former education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party and delivered a short speech at an event organised at his department’s Whitehall headquarters.

A spokesman acknowledged that ‘it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time’.

Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’: December 17, 2020

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case removed himself from the inquiry into Whitehall parties – to be replaced by Ms Gray – after reports emerged of a gathering in the Cabinet Office.

It was reported that the do had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was noted in digital calendars as ‘Christmas party!’ and included an online quiz.

The Cabinet Office said Mr Case played no part in the event ‘but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own’. 

Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head: December 17, 2020

The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce said she was ‘truly sorry’ over an evening gathering in the Cabinet Office for her leaving drinks during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.

Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said she gathered with colleagues who were in the office that day and added that she was cooperating with the Ms Gray’s probe.

Number 10 leaving do: December 17, 2020:

The Sue Gray update said the police are also probing a gathering in Downing Street held to mark the departure of a Number 10 official on December 17.

The Telegraph reported that the staff member in question was Captain Steve Higham, then one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries, who advised on defence and national security issues.

The Mirror, which first reported the event before the police investigation began, said Mr Johnson was only there ‘for a few minutes’.

Capt Higham became Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in July 2021. 

‘Wine and cheese’ Christmas party at Downing Street:  December 18, 2020

The claim that kicked off the rule-breaking allegations is that a party was held for Downing Street staff on December 18.

Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the PM is not thought to have attended.

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference – although it is not clear whether she attended. 

Number 10 leaving do for two staff members: January 14, 2021

A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.

Reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to The Telegraph.

The other official’s identity is so far unknown. 

Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral: April 16, 2021

The Telegraph reported that advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate events on the Friday night.

They were to mark the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers.


Carrie Johnson (left) was also fined today. Mr Johnson is seen on the right drinking water at a reception for teachers in June 2021 which did not break any lockdown rules

Mr Slack, who left his Number 10 role to become deputy editor-in-chief of The Sun newspaper, said he was sorry for the ‘anger and hurt’ caused by his leaving do, while Downing Street apologised to the Queen.

The Telegraph quoted a Number 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.

The newspaper reported accounts from witnesses who said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music, adding that it had been told that around 30 people attended both events combined.

Online Christmas quiz in No 10: December 15, 2020

Police initially said they did not intend to investigate the quiz, during which the Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens.

However they later said they would review the decision after a photograph emerged of Mr Johnson alongside an open bottle of sparkling wine. 

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