Ex-ethics chief Helen MacNamara 'sorry' after partygate fine as Starmer says PM 'unfit for office'

Helen MacNamara was one of the first people to be fined by police investigating the partygate scandal. Credit: Gov/Number 10

The government's former ethics chief has apologised for an "error of judgement" after being fined for attending a lockdown-breaking party in June 2020.

Helen MacNamara said she had paid a £50 fine after reportedly bringing a karaoke machine to a leaving do for a permanent secretary on June 18, 2020.

“I am sorry for the error of judgement I have shown. I have accepted and paid the fixed penalty notice," she said.

Sir Keir Starmer, pointing to the issuing of 20 partygate fines by the Metropolitan Police, said all senior officials who receive Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) by Operation Hillman officers should be named.

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on why Helen MacNamara's apology is a headache for the PM

It is “very important" that the PM "makes sure that all those who are given fines, certainly in senior positions, are named", he said.

“We seem to be going through this process where instant by instant, fines are coming out but the public are being left in the dark. The public complied with the rules. They are entitled to know who didn’t comply with the rules and what is going on," Sir Keir added.

More than 100 people - including the prime minister - are being investigated under the probe, which is looking into at least 12 allegedly illegal events held on government premises while the UK was under lockdown.

Mr Johnson is understood to have attended a number of the parties but he says it was always part of his working day and claims he acted within the guidance.

Sir Keir said the issuing of 20 fines shows Boris Johnson presided over "widespread criminality" on Whitehall during the pandemic.

The Labour leader said Mr Johnson is "unfit for office" and once again called on him to resign.

It is not clear whether the PM will be fined by the Met, but critics say the fact that fines have been issued indicates he misled MPs with his claim in the Commons last year that rules were always followed on Downing Street.

The ministerial code says anyone who knowingly misleads Parliament should resign, but ministers defending the PM have suggested he was speaking honestly on December 8 last year, and that he'd been misled himself by his staff.

Sir Keir said: “The idea that he had no idea what was going on in his home and his office and he only gave answers because he was lied to by his officials is a case he needs to make. I would like to see him make that case because I don’t think he can.”

Asked by broadcasters if Mr Johnson should return to Parliament to correct the record on earlier statements about partygate, the Labour leader said: “It is absolutely important that the prime minister is honest and accountable to Parliament. I shouldn’t have to say that.

“That has been a principle for a very long time. The idea that we are even debating whether it is all right for the prime minister to have lied about this shows just how far the standards have sunk under this prime minister.

“He needs to come to Parliament to be held to account. He has not only misled the public about this, he has presided over widespread criminality in his home and his office and that is why I am convinced he is unfit for office.”

Downing Street declined to say whether the PM believes coronavirus laws were broken at No 10, despite policing issuing fines.

His official spokesperson said: “The prime minister wants to comment at the conclusion of the process and not at the middle of it.”

Asked if he agreed with Welsh Secretary Simon Hart’s assessment that the “world has moved on” from the partygate allegations, the spokesperson said: “We recognise the strength of feeling around this issue which is why the prime minister came to the House to apologise and has talked about the mistakes made.

“We’ll have more to say at the conclusion of the process.”