Downing Street breached Covid rules on “record-breaking scale”, Rayner says

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Angela Rayner has accused Boris Johnson’s Downing Street of breaching Covid rules on a “record-breaking scale” during the pandemic as the Metropolitan Police Service issued more than 50 further fines in relation to ‘partygate’.

Following the latest fines issued today, the Met has now imposed more than 100 fixed-penalty notices over gatherings held in breach of Covid rules in Downing Street and Whitehall – including to Boris Johnson, Carrie Johnson and Rishi Sunak.

Reacting to the news, the deputy Labour leader said: “Boris Johnson’s Downing Street has now reached a century of fixed-penalty notices for their partying.

“They have racked up the dubious distinction of receiving more fines on the Prime Minister’s watch than any other location. Boris Johnson made the rules, and then broke them at record-breaking scale. Britain deserves better.”

The Prime Minister has resisted calls to resign over the fines. He is understood not to have received an additional fine in the latest tranche announced today, which are thought to relate to a Christmas party in December 2020.

Reacting to the news of Johnson’s fine, imposed in April, Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern.”

Several Tory MPs have also urged the Prime Minister to step down since he was issued with a fine, including backbencher Steve Baker, who told MPs in April that Johnson “should be long gone” and “should just know the gig is up”.

Speaking to ITV News earlier today, Thangam Debbonaire said: “Keir Starmer in contrast has already said that if he were to be fined he would of course resign from his position as leader of the opposition. There’s simply no comparison with the industrial scale partying that’s been happening at No 10.”

The shadow House of Commons leader added: “Bringing suitcases in through the backdoor of 10 Downing Street full of wine that were bought from the little supermarket round the corner – that’s not the same as a work event.

“A birthday cake, people singing Happy Birthday, karaoke, inviting people’s decorators and partners – no, that is not the same at all as a work event, and I think Boris Johnson knows it.”

Starmer announced on Monday that he will step down as leader if he is issued with a fine after the police announced that they would be reopening an investigation into whether he breached the Covid restrictions while on a campaigning trip.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday evening, the Labour leader told journalists: “If the police decide to issue me with a fixed-penalty notice, I would of course do the right thing and step down.”

He also stressed that he is “absolutely clear” that no laws were broken during the incident and that the rules were followed “at all times”. He added: “I simply had something to eat while working late in the evening.”

Rayner, who was at the event in Durham, said: “I’ve always been clear that I was at the event in Durham working in my capacity as deputy leader and that no rules were broken. Eating during a long day’s work was not against the rules.

“We have a Prime Minister who has been found to have broken the rules, lied about it and then been fined. If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down.”

A Labour motion in April proposing an investigation into allegations that Boris Johnson misled parliament over partygate was passed unopposed by MPs. The Commons privileges committee will undertake the inquiry, although its “substantive” work will not begin until after the Met Police investigation has concluded.

Johnson told parliament that all “the guidance was followed” when initially questioned about the allegations. The ministerial code outlines that ministers who knowingly misled parliament “will be expected to offer their resignation”.

After a video was released showing No 10 staff laughing about a party on December 18th 2020, Johnson said he had been “repeatedly assured” that “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”. Later that day, he said he was “sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed”.

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