London mayor seeks police answers over ‘partygate’ fines
LONDON (AP) — The mayor of London asked the city’s police chief on Tuesday to explain how decisions were made about issuing fines for lockdown-breaking government parties, after photos were published of Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinking at an event in his office in 2020.
Some people who attended the November 2020 gathering inside 10 Downing St. were fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions — but Johnson was not. He was fined 50 pounds ($63) over another gathering, a surprise birthday party thrown for him in June 2020.
Mayor Sadiq Khan asked Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stephen House to explain “the factors which were taken into account by investigating officers when decisions were made about whether to take action” over the “partygate” allegations.
The mayor’s office said Khan “is concerned that the trust and confidence of Londoners in the police is being further eroded by this lack of clarity.” Khan is a member of the opposition Labour Party.
Thousands of people in Britain were fined between 60 pounds ($75) and 10,000 pounds ($12,500) by police for rule-breaking social gatherings, and revelations that the government broke the rules it imposed on others has caused widespread anger.
Johnson is awaiting a senior civil servant’s report into the scandal that could further weaken his grip on power. The results of Sue Gray’s investigation could come as soon as Wednesday, and will pile more pressure on the prime minister.
Johnson has promised to make a statement to Parliament after the report is published, and will have to explain why he told lawmakers last year that no parties were held in Downing Street and no rules were broken.
Critics, some of them inside Johnson’s Conservative Party, say the prime minister lied to Parliament — traditionally a resigning matter.
Claims that Johnson and his staff enjoyed illegal office parties while millions in the country were prevented from seeing friends and family in 2020 and 2021 have dogged the government since they first surfaced late last year.
Police investigated and issued a total of 126 fines to 83 people. Most are thought to be junior staffers, but fines also went to Johnson — making him the first British prime minister ever found to have broken the law while in office — and his wife Carrie.
Johnson has apologized, but insisted that he didn’t knowingly break the rules.
That is hard to square with accounts of “bring your own booze” office parties and regular “wine time Fridays” in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic.