Boris Johnson has been warned the Conservatives will “reap the whirlwind” of the No 10 lockdown parties saga at the ballot box next month as the threat of more police fines hangs over him. Former Tory minister Steve Baker told The Daily Telegraph the partygate scandal could hurt the Tories at the local elections on May 5, with his constituents expressing “fury” at reports of lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
It comes after the influential backbencher turned on the Prime Minister in the Commons earlier this week, telling MPs the Conservative Party leader should have realized the “gig’s up” after the Metropolitan Police concluded he had breached his own coronavirus rules.
“People lived under barbaric rules. “They were told that if they deviated one iota from the law they would kill people. And they suffered for it,” Mr Baker, who hinted that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, told the newspaper.
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“Meanwhile in No 10, where they should have been obeying both the letter and spirit of the rules, clearly they breached both. It’s been a disaster and I fear we will reap the whirlwind on polling day.”
It comes after reports by ITV that fine notices have started landing in the email inboxes of officials who attended a “bring your own bottle” drinks do in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020, during England’s first Covid lockdown when indoor and outdoor gatherings were banned.
On Friday evening, No 10 said Mr Johnson, who has admitted attending but insisted he “implicitly believed that this was a work event”, has not received notice of a fine in relation to the gathering. But with the PM having already been fined once for attending his own birthday bash in June 2020, there is the risk he could be fined further times, with claims that police are looking into another five possible rule-breaking events he is said to have attended .
The Met has said it will make no public update on the number of fines issued until after the local elections, but Downing Street has stated it will still declare whether Mr Johnson receives further fines in the lead up to polling day. He is facing calls to resign over the partygate affair, with prominent backbenchers such as Mr Baker and ex-defence minister Tobias Ellwood among those to call for him to quit.
The Guardian said allies of former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and trade minister Penny Mordaunt had been making “discrete preparations” for a leadership contest should Tory MPs move to top Mr Johnson. A widespread Tory revolt was rumored to be behind the Downing Street decision to abandon a plan on Thursday to delay a Commons investigation into whether he misled Parliament with his repeated assurances that Covid rules were followed in No 10.
As well as the Scotland Yard probe and investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray into the partygate claims, the PM will be subject to a third inquiry by the Privileges Committee, which will seek to determine whether he knew about the alleged rule breaches before making his statements to MPs.
Facing questions about the alleged parties during his final day in India on Friday, the Prime Minister suggested his administration had received a “pretty good kick” as a result of MPs’ decision to refer him to a new investigation. But he backed himself to still be in power in the autumn, having set the target of signing a trade deal with New Delhi by October.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.