UK’s Johnson Says Partygate Fine Did Not Breach Ministerial Code, Citing Lack of ‘Intent’

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
June 1, 2022Updated: June 1, 2022

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson denies breaking the ministerial code over the “partygate” scandal, stressing that there was “no intent” to breach COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a birthday gathering for the prime minister in No. 10 Downing Street in June 2020.

The prime minister’s ethics adviser, Lord Christopher Geidt, said a “legitimate question” had arisen as to whether the fine might have constituted a breach of the “overarching duty within the ministerial code of complying with the law.”

In his latest annual report on ministers’ interests, published on May 31, Geidt wrote: “It may be that the prime minister considers that no such breach of his ministerial code has occurred. In that case, I believe a prime minister should respond accordingly, setting out his case in public.”

In response, Johnson released a letter later that evening, claiming that he “did not breach” the ministerial code, as there was “no intent to break the law.”

He also insisted that he had taken “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch” in light of lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street and pointed to his apology made in the House of Commons.

In a June 1 interview with Sky News, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab offered backing to Johnson and said questions around whether he broke the ministerial code “have been answered.”

Raab also said he doesn’t believe the prime minister will face a confidence vote next week, stating that speculation over the matter is “yet more Westminster talking to itself.”

An official report on the so-called “partygate” scandal by senior civil servant Sue Gray, published on May 25, detailed events at which officials drank so much that they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations, and abused security and cleaning staff at a time when millions of people across the country were unable to see friends and family because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Gray wrote that “the senior leadership at the centre” must bear responsibility for the breaches, which resulted in a total of 126 fines being issued to 83 people.

The prime minister could face a leadership challenge if 54 Conservative MPs—15 percent of the parliamentary party—write to the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a vote of no confidence.

While only 25 Tory MPs have so far publicly called for Johnson to step down, that doesn’t necessarily reflect the total number of formal letters submitted to Brady, which is kept secret.

PA Media contributed to this report.