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UK PM Johnson and his finance minister to be fined over ‘partygate’ COVID scandal

Unclear how much British premier and chancellor have been ordered to pay for alleged breach of COVID protocol; opposition leader Starmer demands their resignation

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session in parliament in London, on March 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers' Questions session in parliament in London, on March 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said Tuesday that he and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak will be fined by police for breaching COVID-19 regulations following allegations of lockdown parties at government offices.

The news came after London’s Metropolitan Police force said earlier Tuesday that they were issuing 30 more fixed penalty notices in relation to the “partygate” scandal, which has angered many in Britain and seen dozens of politicians and officials investigated over allegations that the government flouted its own pandemic restrictions.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” a spokesperson for Johnson’s office said. “We have no further details.”

It was not clear how much Johnson and Sunak were fined.

Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, but he is alleged to have been at half of the dozen events in his 10 Downing St. office and other government buildings that are being investigated by the police.

Johnson’s government has been shaken by public anger over revelations that his staff held “bring your own booze” office parties, birthday celebrations and “wine time Fridays” in 2020 and 2021 while millions in Britain were barred from meeting with friends and family because of his government’s COVID-19 restrictions. Thousands of people were fined between 60 pounds ($79) and 10,000 pounds ($13,200) by police for rule-breaking social gatherings.

Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer poses for the media as he leaves 11 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

Opponents, and some members of the governing Conservative Party, have said for months that Johnson should resign if he is issued a fine for breaking rules he imposed on the rest of the country during the pandemic.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” said Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party. “The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, called for Parliament to be recalled for a vote of no confidence in Johnson.

The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said “there is simply no way” that Johnson or Sunak can remain in their jobs.

“Their dishonesty has caused untold hurt to the bereaved,” said the group’s spokesman Lobby Akinnola. “Not only that, but they have lost all credibility with the wider public.”

In total, police say they were issuing at least 50 fines for the breaches, but did not identify who the recipients are. Police say they have sent questionnaires to more than 100 people, including the prime minister, and interviewed witnesses as part of the investigation.

In January, civil servant Sue Gray published a report into some of the gatherings, the ones not under criminal investigation. She said “failures of leadership and judgment” in Johnson’s government allowed events to occur that should not have happened.

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