UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a “full apology” on Tuesday after being fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown laws in the so-called “Partygate” scandal, but looked set to defy calls for his resignation.
Embattled finance minister Rishi Sunak and Johnson’s wife Carrie will also be fined, as the political storm following revelations of a swathe of lockdown-busting parties in and around Downing Street threatens to engulf Johnson once more.
“Let me say immediately that I’ve paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology,” Johnson said during televised remarks.
Johnson’s office said his fine was for attending a surprise birthday gathering in his honour on the afternoon of June 19, 2020 in the Cabinet Room at Number 10.
The prime minister said the event lasted around 10 minutes, and denied that he had lied about not knowingly breaking the law, saying: “In all frankness at that time, it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.
“But of course the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation,” he added.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, swiftly called for the two most senior members of the government to resign.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” Starmer tweeted.
“They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”
However, Johnson said he now wanted “to get on and deliver the mandate that I have”, and early signs were that his MPs were currently sticking with him.