Senior Tories Urge Johnson To Sack Officials Given Partygate Fixed Penalty Notices By Met
4 min read
Senior Tory MPs want Boris Johnson to sack officials who are being issued Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for their involvement in parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown.
But earlier it emerged that individuals will not be required to disclose whether they have received FPNs to their government bosses.
The Met Police on Tuesday morning announced it was referring 20 FPNs to people who breached Covid rules by attending Westminster parties during lockdown, with more expected to follow.
However, Johnson's official spokesperson later casted doubt over what action would be taken against the perpetrators. They said they would not be obliged to disclose their FPNs to Downing Street and other employers, raising questions over how a disciplinary procedure could take place.
A senior Conservative MP who backed Johnson in the 2019 Tory party leadership election said those handed FPNs should resign and that failure to sack those who refuse would be a "massive failure of leadership on his part".
They said: “Even if the Prime Minister himself isn’t among this first tranche of fines, getting an FPN for breaking Covid rules that they effectively set should be a resignation matter for the special advisers or senior civil servants concerned.
“If they do not resign, the Prime Minister should sack them. If Boris doesn’t sack them when he’s been sending his own ministers out to call for the P&O boss’s head, then that would be a massive failure of leadership on his part".
Another senior Tory MP agreed, saying the civil service code is "clear" that officials must comply with the law.
They said there should be "the utmost transparency" around the Met investigation into government employees and that those given FPNs should have to disclose them to their managers.
"The Prime Minister has set the example by saying if he received an FPN, he’ll let be it be known, and others should follow suit," they told PoliticHome.
The same MP added that the Met announcement, plus the likelihood of more FPNs being handed out by the police in the coming weeks, meant that Johnson's position was not totally safe, even if Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine had put talk of a new Conservative leader on hold.
“The horror of Ukraine has contextualised the issue in that the leader of a country invading another is different to the leader of a country eating a piece of illegal birthday cake," they said.
“But one being different in scale doesn’t exclude the other to a point of irrelevant triviality. Just because some things are different doesn’t mean they cancel each other out".
The Met announcement triggered strong responses from Conservative MPs who are highly critical of the Prime Minister, but failed to provoke uproar from the wider Tory party. This is despite widepread allegations that Johnson lied to parliament in early December when he said "all guidance was followed" in Downing Street during lockdown.
Several MPs who PoliticsHome spoke to today said they were unmoved by the Met announcement and more concerned by the war in Ukraine and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
One MP who went as far as submitting a letter of no confidence in Johnson earlier this year said there was "too little information" in the Met announcement today to reach a clear conclusion.
Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, told the BBC that Johnson should not resign, even if he himself is found by the Met to have breached lockdown laws, because he "got the big calls right" on the coronavirus pandemic and needed to lead the UK response to Russia's attack on Ukraine.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe