LONDON — Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has escaped without further sanctions in a long-simmering scandal that threatened his grip on power, as the Metropolitan Police announced on Thursday they had concluded an investigation into the breakup parties lockdown in Downing Street and Whitehall.
Police said they issued 126 fines, called penalty notices, relating to eight social gatherings held in and around Downing Street, which combines offices and the prime minister’s official residence, during times when the government restricted social mixing.
Mr Johnson had previously paid a fine for attending a birthday party for him, and he was known to have attended other gatherings which were investigated by police, but he was not not part of those sentenced to additional fines, according to a Downing Street spokesman.
The absence of any further sanctions lifts a cloud that has hung over the Prime Minister since reports of illicit parties first broke in November last year. Mr Johnson had faced a potential leadership challenge from members of his Tory party, but that danger appears to have receded.
The spotlight will now turn to opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer, who is under pressure for participating during a lockdown in a beer and Indian food rally with members of his subject party of a police investigation in Durham.
Mr Starmer said that if fined he would resign as party leader – a move aimed at increasing pressure on Mr Johnson, who has said he will remain in office whether he has or not been found guilty of violating the law.
The Labor Party harshly criticized Mr Johnson on Thursday, with Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, saying in a statement: ‘An industry-wide breach of the rules has taken place in the heart of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street.
But now it’s Mrs. Rayner who is under pressure. She was alongside Mr Starmer at the rally being investigated in Durham.
London police said in issuing the fines, 53 were issued to men and 73 to women. Some people received more than one.
As well as Mr Johnson, his wife, Carrie Johnson, has been told she will not face a fine. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who was fined for attending a party, will also not receive additional penalties, according to Downing Street.
“Our investigation was thorough and impartial and was completed as quickly as possible, given the amount of information that needed to be reviewed and the importance of ensuring we have strong evidence,” police said. in a press release.
Police said 12 detectives were working on the case, dubbed Operation Hillman. They examined 345 documents, 510 photographs and surveillance images, as well as the collection of 204 questionnaires.
But the role of the police in the scandal has been heavily criticised. For months, the London force refused to investigate reports of illicit parties in government offices, which emerged in the daily media, only to turn the tide and launch an investigation in late January, just as an investigation separate internal government on parties was about to be published. .
This report, written by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, was published only in a very redacted form. Once the police investigation is complete, the government has pledged to release the full report. It is expected to shed a harsh light on the alcohol-fueled culture in Downing Street under Mr Johnson’s leadership.