Boris Johnson has been told public fury over lockdown-breaking Downing Street parties will lead to substantial losses for the Tories in next month’s local elections, with the Prime Minister possibly facing new police fines before polling day.
Steve Baker, a prominent Tory backbench MP, said voters repeatedly mentioned the Partygate scandal during the election campaign and that Tories should prepare to ‘reap the whirlwind’ of standing with Johnson .
The former Brexit minister, who called on Johnson to step down earlier this week, told the Daily Telegraph it was clear the Prime Minister was not being sincere when he apologized to Parliament for breaching the lockdown rules, adding: “The problem is that the contrition didn’t last much longer than it took to get out of the principal’s office. By the time we got to the 1922 Committee meeting this that night was the usual festival of bombast and orgy of adulation, and it took me about 90 seconds to realize he wasn’t really remorseful.
He said the cabinet members who want the prime minister out are “sitting there fat, stupid and happy and letting me do the dirty work” rather than risk their careers publicly trying to force Johnson to quit. The Guardian has reported how MPs believe Tory MP allies such as Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt are already preparing for leadership bids.
Baker has represented Wycombe since 2010 but his seat is now a key target for Labor, with current polls suggesting Sir Keir Starmer’s party would win the constituency if an election is held tomorrow.
“People lived under barbaric rules,” Baker said. “They were told that if they deviated one iota from the law, they would kill people. And they suffered… Meanwhile, in issue #10, where they should have obeyed both the letter and the spirit of the rules, they clearly broke both.
It comes after an ITV News report said fixed penalty notices were emailed to officials who attended a ‘bring your own booze’ drinks event in Downing Street Garden in May 2020 at a time when indoor and outdoor gatherings were prohibited.
Downing Street said on Friday evening that Johnson, who admitted to attending the garden party but insisted he “implicitly believed it was a work event”, did not receive notice of fine in connection with the assembly.
But with the Prime Minister already fined for attending his own birthday event in June 2020, there is a risk he could be fined again, with claims police are investigating five other possible rule-breaking events he would have attended.
The Met said it would not provide any public update on the number of fines issued before the local election. However, Downing Street said it would still announce whether the Prime Minister faced further fines before Election Day.
In addition to a police investigation and an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray, the Prime Minister will face a third investigation by the House of Commons Privileges Committee into the Partygate scandal. He will seek to establish whether he was aware of the alleged breaches of the rules before making his statements to MPs. An attempt to block that third investigation failed this week, amid a backbench rebellion.
Facing questions about the alleged parties on his last day in India on Friday, the prime minister said he would still be in power in the fall, having set a goal of signing a trade deal with New Delhi by here October.