8 Pressing Questions We Still Have About Partygate And The Downing Street Fines

While Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have apologised, both have refused to step down.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been fined for attending gatherings during lockdown
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been fined for attending gatherings during lockdown

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were issued £50 fines on Tuesday after they attended a party in Downing Street during lockdown.

Despite being the first prime minister in living memory to break the law, Johnson has refused to step down, as has his chancellor.

Both politicians are now trying to move on from the scandal, but here are all the pressing questions which still need to be answered before the partygate row can be resolved.

1. Will either of them receive further fines?

The Met is investigating the partygate scandal by looking at each event, one at a time.

Johnson and Sunak have been fined over the party held in June 2020 in honour of the prime minister’s 56th birthday. It is only the third chronological event among all of the parties being investigated, although it’s not clear if the Met are doing it in order.

Still, fines have only been issued in relation to two of the 12 parties so far – this means plenty more fines may be ahead for the prime minister and the chancellor.

2. Will we get the Sue Gray report soon?

The Sue Gray report is the internal investigation which Johnson ordered earlier in the year. Although the government described this report as an independent inquiry, Gray, a senior civil servant, had to hand her findings to the prime minister before they could go public.

Nevertheless, people were still very keen to find out what she had unearthed especially as her investigation uncovered criminal evidence, which she then handed to the police so they could launch their own probe.

However, the report could not be released while the Met’s inquiry was underway.

POLITICO’s Playbook reported that Gray’s final “update” will arrive some time after the police probe wraps up, although it adds: “Whenever that is.”

The Telegraph predicts it might come next week. Either way, the report is expected to offer damning insight into life behind the doors of No.10.

3. Why did the Met announce it during parliamentary recess?

The police have not been transparent about how they are conducting their investigation, and the timing around each of their announcements has not been explained.

By making the announcement when the Commons is in recess, journalists can not question No.10′s spokesperson about it at lobby briefings and MPs cannot query the prime minister over the breach of Covid rules directly at PMQs.

The police have not explained what the fines are for either, raising further questions as to why Sunak was fined but cabinet secretary Simon Case was not, despite being at the party for longer.

4. How likely is a no-confidence vote now?

At the height of the partygate revelations, Johnson’s premiership seemed in jeopardy as plenty of MPs from within his own party handed in letters of no confidence.

If 15% of the Conservative MPs (54 in total) told the Tory backbenchers on the 1922 committee that they had no faith in Johnson’s leadership, there would be a vote among the parliamentary party.

He would only be ousted if 50% of the Tory MPs voted for “no confidence”.

The 1922 Committee is not expected to announce if the 15% threshold has been reached until parliament returns on Tuesday, but so far only one Conservative MP has openly called for Johnson to step down.

5. Why have not many Tory MPs come forward yet?

No one in cabinet has so far digressed from the official government line that the prime minister has apologised and so he now has to focus on the more important war in Ukraine instead.

Only one Conservative MP out of the 360 currently in parliament has openly called for the PM to resign since he was fined.

Many came out against Johnson before the police probe was launched, while others said they were waiting to hear the Met’s verdict before deciding. Now it’s clear Johnson did break the rules, they’ve all gone quiet.

The Sun’s political editor Harry Cole speculated Tory MPs have just decided there are no suitable successors to Johnson.

6. Did Johnson lie to Parliament?

Johnson – and Sunak – repeatedly denied that any rules had been broken, both in the Commons and when addressing reporters outside of Westminster.

A row has now broken out about whether or not the prime minister broke the ministerial code by lying in parliament, as it’s too difficult to prove if he was aware that he had breached his own Covid restrictions before the police investigation.

If Johnson lied unwittingly – as he and No.10 claim – then he is not expected to resign.

7. Why did he really go to Ukraine?

The prime minister made a surprise trip to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, at the weekend days after a Ukrainian MP told HuffPost UK Johnson needed to come and witness the atrocities of the war himself.

The prime minister has been widely praised for the public show of support to Ukraine, especially as most other western leaders have not visited the embattled country since the war broke out in February.

However, some sceptics are now pondering over if the timing of the visit and wondering if Johnson was attempting to secure some good PR before the news of the partygate fine went public.

Yet, environment secretary George Eustice told LBC on Monday that it wasn’t a publicity stunt to distract from partygate, adding: “Well, I think that’s very unfair. The truth is that the invasion of Ukraine is an incredibly serious matter.”

“Absolutely right, that we should so show solidarity with Ukraine during this most difficult moment,” he concluded.

8. How can the PM excuse letting other members of staff go over partygate?

The prime minister appeared to share the public fury when a video of his former aide, Allegra Stratton, joking about breaking lockdown rules with “wine and cheese” gatherings, was obtained by ITV News.

He said: “All evidence shows people in this building [Downing Street] stayed within the rules, if that’s not the case and people wish to bring allegations of course there will be proper sanctions.”

Stratton subsequently stepped down and gave a tearful apology to the press.

Now, people have pointed out that the video of Stratton only implied there had been parties; the police investigation confirms that there was a birthday gathering in breach of lockdown and that the prime minister was in attendance.


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