After Boris Johnson issued an apology (along with a pool clip) over the fixed penalty notice he received for attending a birthday gathering in 10 Downing Street, attention turned to the silent Chancellor. Would Rishi Sunak resign in response to the fixed penalty notice he was handed? It’s clear he’s been uncomfortable with the partygate disclosures and did not expect to be issued with a fine.
Several hours after Johnson’s statement, Sunak has confirmed that he plans to fight on. He said he ‘deeply regrets the frustration and anger caused’ and offers an ‘unreserved apology’:
‘I can confirm I have received a Fixed Penalty Notice from the Metropolitan Police with regards to a gathering held on 19th June in Downing Street.
I offer an unreserved apology. I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence.
I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine. I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid, and they will find this situation upsetting.
I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry. Like the Prime Minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time.’
So, what happens next? As I write in the new issue of The Spectator, one of the things helping Johnson when it comes to retaining the support of Tory MPs is that Sunak’s position has weakened in recent weeks. He doesn’t look ready to take over anytime soon. With both Johnson and Sunak now determined to stay in position, the local elections will be pivotal in determining how sustainable it is to have the two most senior members of the government found in breach of Covid guidelines.
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