For five long months, the Prime Minister and his Number 10 team have been plagued by partygate scandal.
From revelations of multiple rule-breaking events in Downing Street and Whitehall, to the public and political furor that sparked a Whitehall and then a police investigation – the Prime Minister will emerge from it all today feeling hugely relieved.
You might find it confusing, amazing even. After all, the building that is the heart of government – the very place where the rules were made – has the disgrace of becoming the most verbalized workplace in the UK.
the metropolitan policeconcluding its four-month investigation, imposed 126 fines across eight different events – from that infamous “bring your own booze” garden party on May 20, to the party at Number 10 the day before Prince Philip’s funeral. As many as 83 government officials, politicians and advisers have been fined by the police. Twenty-eight of them were repeat offenders, receiving two to five fines.
Read more: Everything you need to know about the Met’s Partygate investigation
When I asked Acting Met Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball if she was surprised at the number of fixed fines issued, she replied: “I think a number of people, members of the public, were both surprised and concerned by the outcome of our investigation.”
Crucially, however, the Prime Minister has not received any additional fines beyond the one he received for the surprise birthday rally on June 19, despite having attended events where other people have done it.
It suggests the Metropolitan Police thought his presence was ‘reasonably necessary’ for work purposes, or perhaps Mr Johnson escaped more fines because police listed Number 10 as his home.
But with serial breaches seen in government, Number 10 is certainly not outwardly celebrating the Prime Minister’s evasion of further fines. A senior official only told me that “the Prime Minister is grateful to the police for their work”.
Another political ally told me that it would definitely weigh on the Prime Minister’s mind. With that one hurdle cleared, he now awaits the full release of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report.
Likely to be released next week, it was evidence uncovered by Sue Gray’s inquiry that sparked the criminal investigation into Downing Street and Whitehall in the first place. the tentative conclusions were pretty gruelling, but the full version should be overwhelming for the cultivation and driving of number 10.
“The big deal is behind him, but now we have the Sue Gray report and I think it’s going to be uncomfortable reading for many civil servants,” says one of the prime minister’s allies.
“The Prime Minister was not in Downing Street for some of the most egregious breaches, but this will no doubt be a hard report to digest, but he will now relish the opportunity to put that aside and get back to the issues. that people are concerned about.”
Many MPs have told their constituents they are reserving judgment on Mr Johnson’s fate until the Met’s inquiry is complete. and the Sue Gray report was released. Next week, they will therefore have to decide whether or not to support the Prime Minister.
Politics Hub: ‘Now we can move on,’ says minister as Boris Johnson avoids further fines
But allies and foes alike know that evading more fines will give the prime minister some breathing room. Those who hovered over pressing Boris Johnson’s eject button now have a reason to put it off for just a little longer.
“If a vote of confidence is not triggered after the Sue Gray report comes out, in the short term I don’t know what would persuade my colleagues to trigger a vote,” one MP tells me.
But in the longer term, how could this whole thing play out with the public. People were shocked and disappointed by the reports of rule breaches in issue 10. That 126 fines were issued proves they were right.
Even if Mr Johnson survives with his party, will the public forgive and forget? This is the question that kills.
One of those MPs who believe it is damaged beyond repair told me that they believe the public has already made up its mind.
“This is not a political mistake. If the public concludes that the Prime Minister was not telling the truth and does not trust him, we will struggle to win back their support. So the question to colleagues is, do you want to go to down with him?”
But for now, Mr Johnson is surviving just fine.
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