British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for breaking COVID lockdown rules after he was issued with a fine for attending a gathering in 10 Downing Street.
The prime minister confirmed he had paid the £50 penalty, saying it “did not occur to him at the time” that he was breaking the rules.
He also denied lying to parliament, despite telling MPs in the House of Commons that he had been assured that the guidance was followed at all times in No 10 during lockdown, saying he “spoke in completely good faith”.
Johnson, his wife Carrie Johnson, and chancellor Rishi Sunak were each fined on Tuesday for attending a birthday event for the PM in No 10 on 19 June 2020.
The fines are among more than 50 fixed penalty notices which have now been issued over illegal gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall during COVID restrictions.
The Met Police investigation is ongoing, meaning Johnson could be issued with further FPNs. He is alleged to have attended five further illegal gatherings.
Carrie Johnson has also paid her fine, her spokesperson confirmed. Sunak is yet to comment.
The news was met was a chorus of calls for Johnson and Sunak to resign.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign.
“The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”
However, a number of Tory MPs came out in support for the PM, with some arguing that Johnson has already apologised, and others saying he should stay in post to provide stability of leadership to support Ukraine.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also called for Johnson’s resignation. He tweeted: “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.”
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Boris Johnson must resign. He broke the law and repeatedly lied to parliament about it.
“The basic values of integrity and decency – essential to the proper working of any parliamentary democracy – demand that he go.
“And he should take his out of touch chancellor with him.”
Johnson has repeatedly denied that any rule-breaking events took place in Downing Street, or that he himself had broken restrictions.
On 8 December, he told the House of Commons: “I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken.
“I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.”
Just a month later he issued a grovelling apology to a packed House of Commons, admitting he attended an event where No 10 staff were invited to “bring their own booze” to make the “most of the lovely weather”.
He said he believed it had been a “work event”.
Sunak has also repeatedly denied taking part in any lockdown breaking events.
Asked by Labour MP Karl Turner on 7 December if “he or any of his officials or spads attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties on 27 November or 18 December last year?”, the chancellor replied: “No, I did not attend any parties.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross – who had previously called for Johnson to resign – said it is not the right time for him to leave office, citing the escalating crisis in Ukraine.
In a statement he said: “The public are rightly furious at what happened in Downing Street during the pandemic.
“I understand why they are angry and share their fury. The behaviour was unacceptable. The prime minister needs to respond to these fines being issued.
“However, as I’ve made very clear, in the middle of a war in Europe, when Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes and the UK is Ukraine’s biggest ally, as President Zelenskyy said at the weekend, it wouldn’t be right to remove the prime minister at this time.
“It would destabilise the UK government when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression and the murdering of innocent Ukrainians.”
A snap poll by YouGov revealed more than half of voters think the PM should resign over the fine.
Some 57% of responders said Johnson should step down, while 30% say he should stay.
The same proportion said Rishi Sunak should also resign as Chancellor for being at the same event.
And 75% of responders said they thought Johnson knowingly lied to Parliament about whether he broke lockdown rules, with just 12% saying he did not.
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