Ex-Whitehall ethics chief ‘fined over lockdown karaoke party’

A former chief of ethics in Whitehall has reportedly been slapped with a fine over the Partygate scandal. This is relating to a lockdown karaoke event in the Cabinet Office.

Former deputy cabinet secretary, Helen MacNamara, is though to be among the first set of people handed fixed-penalty notices by cops after a probe into law breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall while the rest of the country was locked down. The Daily Telegraph reports that the senior civil servant is among at least 20 people handed a £50 fine last week over the bash on June 18, 2020.

The event was a boozy leaving do for No10 official, Hannah Young, which is said to have ended in a fight. Lockdown rules at the time banned indoor social gatherings such as this.

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Ms MacNamara was the director general of property and ethics in the Cabinet Office from 2018 to 2020, where she led a probe into bullying allegations against Home Secretary Priti Patel. She left the government to work for the Premier League last year.

The June 18 do was first revealed in Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal where staff reportedly sung karaoke using a machine that belonged to Ms MacNamara. This is despite people being told not to sing in public during that time due to Covid. Since it emerged that staff who attended the lockdown busting boozy bashes on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral would be punished the government has been under increasing pressure to name those fined.

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Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street

Separate gatherings for former Downing Street spin chief James Slack and a photographer took place on April 16 2021, with the gatherings later merging together. This party lasted until the early hours with an official making a trip to a local Co-op to fill a suitcase with wine and another breaking the swing of Boris Johnson’s young son, Wilfred.

The following day, the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband of 70-years due to Covid restrictions. No10 apologized to the palace when the reports of the party emerged.

Former minister Steve Brine urged No10 to identify those slapped with financial penalties by the Metropolitan Police. “The best thing is just transparency, open the curtains,” he told the BBC.

The Queen sitting alone at Prince Philip's funeral, the day after a party in Downing Street
The Queen sitting alone at Prince Philip’s funeral, the day after a party in Downing Street

“They should just be honest about who’s been tipped off with what and put it all out there and say, ‘You know what, we got this wrong’, or, ‘This person’s got this fine’, because these guys in the press, they won’t focus on the issues of the local election, they’ll scratch around and try and dig all this stuff up again. Just be honest, and put it all out there – that would be my advice.”

Indicating No10 should also confirm if Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie is fined, Mr Brine went on: “If you try and cover it over it will just continue as a story.”

It has also been suggested by ITV News that Mr Johnson will not be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police as part of their “partygate” investigation. This is because the force is not interviewing those who have received questionnaires as part of the inquiries, and could potentially be fined.

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The Metropolitan Police is investigating 12 events, including as many as six that Mr Johnson is said to have attended, and has sent out more than 100 questionnaires. Mr Johnson was sent a questionnaire but has so far not received a fixed penalty notice.

No 10 has said it will only confirm if Mr Johnson or Cabinet Secretary Simon Case are fined. The PM is not said to have attended either the June 18 2020 gathering or the events on April 16 2021. The Met declined to comment. The Cabinet Office also said it had nothing to add.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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