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

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied he broke the ministerial code over the “partygate” scandal, stressing 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 Number 10 Downing Street in June 2020.

The prime minister’s ethics adviser Lord Geidt said that 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, Lord 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 he “did not breach” the ministerial code as there was “no intent to break the law.”

He also insisted 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.

Talking to Sky News on June 1, 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 does not believe the prime minister will face a confidence vote next week, adding 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 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 due to 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 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, it does not necessarily reflect the total number of formal letters submitted to Brady, which is kept secret.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang

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