UPDATE: In a statement, Johnson said: “I have paid the fine and want to offer a full apology. I understand the anger many will feel that I myself fell short when it came to observing the very rules which the government I lead had introduced to protect the public. I accept in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better.”
Sunak added: “I offer an unreserved apology. I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine. I know people sacrificed a great deal during COVID, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.”
In what has been dubbed “Partygate” by the British media, it emerged towards the end of last year that there were a series of parties in the Prime Minister’s residence, No. 10, Downing Street, and Whitehall, the London location of several government departments, at times when the rest of the country was under strict lockdown rules due to COVID-19. Johnson and Sunak were present at some of these parties.
More than 50 government ministers and officials have been fined as part of an ongoing police investigation into lockdown breaches.
No. 10 confirmed that Johnson and Sunak have been fined. Johnson was fined for participating in a gathering in the Cabinet Room on his birthday, June 19, 2020.
Johnson and Sunak are both members of the ruling Conservative party. Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour party, said that the fines mean that the Conservatives are “unfit to govern.”
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign,” Starmer said.
Johnson was under intense pressure to resign over Partygate until late March, when the media’s attention was diverted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sunak has been in the eye of a storm the last week after it emerged that his wife Akshata Murty had non domiciled status in the U.K., meaning that she paid taxes on only her U.K. income and not her overseas earnings. Murty, an Indian citizen, has shares worth millions and earns dividends from software company Infosys, owned by her billionaire father Narayana Murty. It also emerged that Sunak had retained his U.S. Green Card status up to several months after he was appointed Chancellor.
Should Johnson and Sunak resign, it will lead to a leadership crisis in the U.K. at a time when the country is already reeling from a cost of living crisis and the after effects of Brexit.
Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, posted on Facebook: “A Prime Minister who breaks the laws his Government makes and then lies about it isn’t fit for office. Families made huge sacrifices and obeyed the law. Many said their last goodbyes to loved ones on the phone while the Prime Minister partied. Boris Johnson must resign.”