'Partygate' - arguably the biggest political scandal in the UK since the Murdoch phone-tapping cases - started with a bang (it nearly derailed Boris Johnson's government). And now, it's ending with a whimper.
After the Metropolitan Police doled out dozens of tickets and fines to confirmed attendees to the series of lockdown-refuting gatherings, the authorities have finally confirmed that Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak had been issued fines.
The force said on Tuesday that more than 50 fines had been issued, and Downing Street later confirmed that Johnson and Sunak were among those hit with fixed penalty notices - along with BoJo's wife, Carrie.
"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 Downing Street spokesman said.
The first batch of 20 fixed penalty notices was issued last month as part of the Met’s "Operation Hillman" inquiry, which the police first opened in January as the Partygate scandal was reaching full boil.
Since then, the situation has calmed down, and a Tory backbencher rebellion to try and oust BoJo never really went anywhere. However, with local elections coming up in May, the FT suggested that the fines could create new problems for BoJo. One former cabinet minister even went as far as to say things looked "terminal" for the PM.
One former cabinet minister said the situation was “terminal” for Johnson. “It’s now a case of when rather than if he goes, not least because he didn’t tell the truth in the House of Commons, that’s the key point,” he said. However, other former rebels are less keen to topple Johnson given the situation in Ukraine. Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives — who previously called for Johnson’s resignation — said removing the prime minister would be wrong: “It would destabilise the UK government when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression.” Johnson’s fine was for the prime minister’s birthday party on June 19, held in the cabinet room at Downing Street, which was attended by 30 people including the interior designer Lulu Lytle.
The PM initially denied allegations that the parties violated the government's COVID restrictions. He also initially said he was "disgusted" by a video of senior staffers joking about the parties. But media reports eventually revealed emails showing the PM had attended one of the gatherings.
Recap:— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) April 12, 2022
Mirror reports Xmas party in No 10
ITV broadcasts staff joking about party
PM says he's disgusted by video
ITV reveals email proving PM went to a party
PM says he didn't know it was a party
Sue Gray concludes there were parties
The police investigation into "Partygate" is running in parallel with an internal Whitehall probe being run by veteran public servant Sue Gray. Her findings were published earlier this year, with the full probe due after the official police investigation is over.