The Metropolitan Police have fined 50 Downing Street employees for taking part in an illegal Christmas party there in 2020.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is not among those being fined this time, as it is understood he did not attend – but the new fines illustrate the scale of lawbreaking in Whitehall while the rest of us were being forced to observe strict social distancing rules that kept us from our loved ones while they were dying – and afterwards.
It is now clear that staff at Downing Street and Whitehall enjoyed a culture of lawbreaking that lasted for months on end – possibly more than a year – under the noses of Boris Johnson and his senior government ministers.
Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have already been served with fines, and with the prime minister believed to have attended at least three of the 12 gatherings under Met Police investigation. Also fined was Johnson’s wife Carrie, who had no reason to be anywhere near Downing Street employees under any circumstances at the time.
The announcement of the new fines must be like a noose tightening around Johnson’s throat; the police investigation is not close to being over – and a second, more detailed report from Cabinet Office civil servant Sue Gray, set to follow once the last fine has been served, threatens to be more damning than all of the penalty notices put together.
Johnson says he will have “plenty to say” about the scale of the lawbreaking “when the thing’s finished”.
But why won’t he say anything about it now?
He knows what happened and whether he took part in it.
But he has refused to provide any information himself, leaving it to investigators to discover the damning evidence – such as that which led to his first fine. If you are a UK citizen, your prime minister is a criminal.
And the decision to force others to drag out the incriminating information simply makes him look worse. We know he is a habitual liar so his determination to hide the facts should be no surprise – but if he is found to have lied to Parliament, he will have broken the Ministerial Code, and the refusal to apologise for doing so, plus the failure to admit his crimes, will make any such offence worse.
So it seems to This Writer that, at the end of the day, Boris Johnson won’t need to say “plenty”. His only option will be summed up in two words: “I resign.”
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