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Cabinet Minister Doesn't 'Subscribe' To View That Rulebreakers Should Lose Their Jobs

3 min read

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart is the latest Cabinet minister to insist Boris Johnson shouldn't resign if he is fined by the Met for his involvement in partygate.

Hart claimed that "the world has moved on at a considerable distance" from the saga and said the vast majority of his constituents wanted Johnson to remain as Prime Minister, even if he is among those to receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) in the coming weeks.

He appeared to play down the significance of the ongoing controversy over parties held in Downing Street during lockdown, which the Met Police is currently investigating and told Sky News' Kay Burley that not everyone in politics who makes a "misjudgement" should be expected to lose their job. 

Hart was speaking after The Telegraph reported on Sunday night that Helen MacNamara, a senior civil servant who was in charge of Whitehall ethics at the time of the lockdown-breaking parties, was among the first tranche of individuals to be fined by the Met.

McNamara, who was deputy cabinet secretary, attended a "raucous" party at the Cabinet Office building in Whitehall where attendees used her karaoke machine.  

The Met has confirmed 20 FPNs for those involved in partygate up to now, with Scotland Yard expected to announce more in the coming weeks. According to The Guardian, among those to receive fines so far are people who attended a party in Downing Street the night before Prince Philip's funeral, which the Queen attended alone due to Covid regulations. 

Hart this morning said it "doesn't sit comfortably" with him or anybody else that government officials partied the night before the funeral.

However, the Cabinet minister defended the Prime Minister's role in the saga. He said Johnson had come out on "numerous occasions" and expressed how "bitterly he regrets" it, and dismissed suggestions that he should have to leave office if given a fine by the police.

"I have 65,000 constituents in west Wales where I represent, and they are not shy in coming forward and expressing a view about this and other subjects.

"Throughout this saga of the Downing Street parties, they have said one thing very clearly and in a vast majority: they want contrition and an apology, but they don't want a resignation," Hart said.

He added that holding a "six-week, self-indulgent leadership contest" to elect a new Prime Minister while Russia attacks Ukraine would not be appropriate.  

"Franky, I don't think is very sensible", he added, echoing the argument put forward by Johnson's most staunch supporters in the Conservative party.

"We all make judgements which we have time to reflect on and wish we'd made differently. For me personally, the world has moved on at a considerable distance," the Cabinet minister said.

Hart said members of government who are fined by the Met as part of its partygate investigation should not have to lose their jobs and that "rarely a day goes by" where he doesn't wish he had done something differently.

"I trust the views of the people who elected me in saying that look, put this problem right, make sure you apologise, you acted inappropriately at the time," he told Sky News. 

"But the idea that every politician or indeed every journalist for that matter who makes a misjudgement along the way should automatically be sacked is not something I subscribe to".

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