First Tory MP calls for Boris Johnson's resignation after he and Rishi Sunak fined over partygate

What does the partygate fine mean for Boris Johnson? Libby Wiener explains

Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign from his own backbenches after becoming the first ever prime minister to have been punished for breaking the law.

Most of his party has remained quiet after he, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined £50 for attending a celebration for the PM's 56th birthday on June 19, 2020, breaking a coronavirus lockdown - but Nigel Mills says the prime minister's position is untenable.

"For a prime minister in office to be given a fine and accept it and pay it for breaking the laws that he introduced... is just an impossible position," the MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire said.

He joined Labour and the Liberal Democrats in calling for the the prime minister to resign but all the other Conservative MPs who've spoken publicly about the fines want Mr Johnson to remain in post to lead the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mr and Mrs Johnson, who along with Mr Sunak have paid their fines, claimed they were unaware while attending the birthday bash that they were breaking the rules.

The PM - who set the rules - said it "did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules" while a spokesperson for his wife said she "believed that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time".

Mr Mills said people have a "right to expect higher standards of people making these laws... so the idea that he can survive having broken one and accepted he's broken (it), I just think is impossible".

Will MPs be able to remove Mr Johnson as prime minister?

Mr Mills believes Mr Johnson will remain in his role - as he's indicated he intends to do - because of the maths involved in removing him.

The opposition could try to remove him and trigger a general election through a motion of confidence in the House of Commons, but that would require a majority of all MPs to back it.

Mr Mills says there's "almost zero chance" of that happening, given the Tory party has a huge majority.

The other route would require 15% of Tory MPs to submit letters of no confidence in their leader, which would be followed by a confidence motion, which would need half of all Tory MPs to back it for Mr Johnson to be removed.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reported on Tuesday's News At Ten that the PM and chancellor partying through lockdown measures is no longer an allegation - it's fact

Mr Mills said: "I'd be very surprised if he either resigns or there's 180 of us that want rid of him. So I think he will carry on for now."

The MP did not join calls from Labour and the Lib Dems for Parliament - which is currently in Easter recess - to be recalled before it's due to return on Tuesday.

Former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson is the most senior member of Mr Johnson's party to call for his resignation, saying he "broke the rules he imposed on the country & lost the moral authority to lead" and "he should go".

She appears to be the only Tory who did not rescind her calls for him to quit over partygate in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Is the war in Ukraine keeping Mr Johnson in a job?

Most of his previous critics want the PM to remain in post, despite appearing to accept the police assessment that he broke the law.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who was among the first Conservatives to call for Mr Johnson's resignation after the first partygate revelations, said it "wouldn't be right" to remove the prime minister during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Veteran Tory Sir Roger Gale, another critic of Mr Johnson, said: "We are in the middle of an international crisis and I am not prepared to give Vladimir Putin the comfort of thinking that we are about to unseat the prime minister of the United Kingdom and destabilise the coalition against Putin."

Mr Mills said said he is "not convinced" by the argument that it is not the right time for a change in leadership in the UK, given the crisis in Ukraine.

The partygate allegations timeline - from 2021 to present day

"When will Ukraine be any better than it is now? If you told me this crisis would be over in three months' time, then you might say, 'well OK, let's get this done (then) the prime minister can meet his fate'.

"But the Ukraine crisis could last for a very, very long time. Are we saying there's no chance of a change of prime minister for years?

He added: "France are having an election - and they're one of the three biggest parts of NATO.

"So if they can have an election with the alternative candidate being someone who probably (has) a radically different policy in relation to Ukraine than President (Emmanuel) Macron, whereas I don't think any of the leadership contenders we would have would have a different policy to the prime minister.

"So there wouldn't really be any uncertainty that we would keep sending them as many weapons as we can and they want, and as much aid as we can, but we're not going to be intervening. So I'm not convinced."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told ITV News he was "very disappointed" that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak had broken Covid rules.

"It clearly should not have happened," he said, "I feel particularly aggrieved about it because I wasn't able to visit my dad, who was in hospital for four months during the lockdowns of Covid, because we were sticking by the rules".

But the Cabinet minister defended the PM, saying he "clearly regrets what happened and takes full responsibility for it".

He added: "I accept the prime minister's apology... he didn't set out to break the rules."

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the police fines prove Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak had "broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public", adding: "Britain deserves better".

What did Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak say in response to their fines?

Speaking to broadcasters at Chequers, Mr Johnson said: “There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting for less than 10 minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes.

“And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.”

He added: “I now humbly accept that I was.

“But I think the best thing I can do now is, having settled the fine, is focus on the job in hand. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Watch in full as the PM reacts to his partygate fine:

Mr Sunak said: “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."

Are more fines coming?

Speaking on Tuesday after news of the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) was revealed, Mr Johnson did not rule out the prospect he could be fined again for further events.

He is reported to have attended six of the 12 under investigation.

The latest fines came in a further tranche of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) announced by Scotland Yard in relation to Operation Hillman, which is probing possible Covid breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.

More than 50 fines have been referred to the Acro Criminal Records Office since the inquiry started.

The progression of the police investigation will again raise the spectre of the Sue Gray report, a dossier on the gatherings compiled by senior official Ms Gray which was stymied by the launch of the probe by the Met.

The Daily Telegraph reported Ms Gray’s full report could be released as early as next week, when MPs return to the Commons after recess.

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