LONDON — The Metropolitan Police will issue 20 fines over parties which broke COVID laws and were attended by politicians and officials at the top of British government.
Since January the police have been investigating allegations of 12 lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s initial assertion that the rules were followed at all times.
The individuals concerned will not be named but the list does not include Johnson himself, according to the latest briefing from Downing Street.
The prime minister’s spokesman said Tuesday that Johnson had not yet been interviewed by police, and has repeatedly committed to disclosing any “significant” developments, such as the prime minister being questioned or fined. Johnson has previously refused to say if he would step down in the event of receiving a fixed-penalty notice.
The spokesman added that Johnson did not believe he had misled the House of Commons, despite previously saying rules were not broken, and that he had no plans to apologize for those comments. The spokesman also said Downing Street would not disclose the identities of any staff or ministers fined apart from Johnson himself.
The Met Police said in a statement “we are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed” but that “due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made.”
The police force declined to specify which events the fines related to.
The inquiry into whether parties held during lockdown in Downing Street and Whitehall broke the law only began after a series of explosive newspaper reports and sustained public anger, which saw Johnson’s favorability ratings plunge to an all-time low in January.
The gatherings under investigation include a garden party at No. 10, which saw a senior Johnson aide email staff and invite them to “bring your own booze.”
In one of the most damaging incidents, Downing Street was forced to apologize to Queen Elizabeth II after the Daily Telegraph revealed two separate staff parties were held in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year.
Three of the prime minister’s top advisers resigned in a backroom reshuffle in February which was intended to reset Johnson’s relationship with an unhappy Conservative Party.
Since then, the war in Ukraine has taken center stage and talk of a leadership challenge has faded.
However, the confirmation that parties in Westminster broke the law — with the expectation of more fines to come — will put Johnson’s future in the spotlight once again.