Is the worst yet to come for Johnson? PM's partygate fines 'could reach £10,000', says legal expert

The mood will become clear in Parliament next week when MPs return, reports Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana

It seems clear Boris Johnson will survive in Downing Street for now after being fined for breaking his own coronavirus rules, with most Tory MPs wanting him to remain in post - but the worst could be yet to come for the UK prime minister.

He clung onto power when the partygate allegations first surfaced and it appears the war in Ukraine is helping him to do so again, as many of his previous critics say the removal of Mr Johnson could assist Vladimir Putin.

The prime minister and his wife Carrie Johnson apologised for breaking lockdown and paid a £50 fine, reduced from £100 as it was cleared quickly.

They both insisted in separate statements that they were unaware the gathering was breaking the rules but many critics outside the party say they find that hard to believe, given the PM repeatedly stated the Covid regulations in numerous press conferences.

This matter is far from over, as Anushka Asthana explains

Just one Tory MP has called for Mr Johnson to resign in response to the fine but with the PM being investigated for five other suspected illegal gatherings, it's very possible he could be issued more Fixed Penalty Notices and that could start a domino effect on his backbenches.

One legal expert believes Mr Johnson's total partygate fines bill could eventually be in excess of £10,000 if he is punished for the five further events he attended.

Which of the 12 events being investigated by police is the PM thought to have attended?

  • May 20 2020: Bring Your Own Booze party

  • June 19 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday bash, for which he has already paid the fine

  • November 13 2020: Downing Street flat party

  • November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide

  • December 17 2020: No 10 leaving drinks for former defence adviser

  • January 14 2021: More Downing Street leaving drinks

How much worse than the birthday party could it get?

The birthday party for which Mr Johnson has been fined was considered to be among the least damaging for the prime minister, given that by all accounts the event came as a surprise to him.

It's alleged the PM was presented with a birthday cake after returning to the Cabinet Room following a visit to a school.

He says he was in the room for less than ten minutes before returning to work.

Indoor gatherings were banned at the time but people were allowed to meet outside in groups of six.

Watch: The partygate timeline - from 2021 to present day

But ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston has been told by a government source who was at the parties that "there are other events [the PM] attended that... were much more obviously unlawful".

But the November 13 flat party - allegedly held to celebrate the departure of former aide Dominic Cummings - is thought to present the biggest threat to Mr Johnson as it was reportedly held on an evening and people were drinking alcohol.

Mr Cummings said in a blog that "staff in the press office said they could hear the music playing loudly” from the upstairs flat.

The Mail on Sunday said the event had been described to it as a “victory party” to celebrate Mr Cummings' resignation and Abba's 'The Winner Takes it All' could be heard playing.

The event was held while England was in a strict circuit breaker lockdown when people were banned from socialising indoors with people outside their household.

People were allowed to meet outdoors but only with one other person from outside their household.

Paul Brand says partygate story is 'by no means over':

ITV News' UK editor said the revelation that Mr Johnson had received a partygate punishment marked "the first time a British prime minister has been found to have broken the law but it may not be the last".

Paul - who has broken a number of partygate stories, including the infamous leaked video of Number 10 staff laughing about a Christmas party - said "there may well be more fines" for the prime minister.

"This story has plenty more yet to run," Paul said, pointing out that police officers are working "methodically" through each of the twelve parties being investigated.

And with fines so far only being handed out for two events, "this story is by no means over".

Paul said the PM currently looks "pretty safe" and his first partygate fine is unlikely to end his premiership.

Robert Peston says it's 'very likely' Boris Johnson will receive more fines from police

A Downing Street source told Peston they "thought 19th June the least likely [of all the events he attended] to see him fined", indicating the other events more blatantly broke the rules.

"So, yes, I think it's very likely the police are going to levy more fines on the prime minister," Peston said.

"He's going to say again that he didn't know he was breaking the rules but I think that becomes less and less plausible if those fines mount up."

Could the PM really end up paying £10,000 in fines?

Covid law expert Adam Wagner said it's likely the prime minister will face more fines for lockdown breaches, given what is known about the events he attended.

He said the "birthday party was very straight forward, but there are other gatherings which are even more straight forward – the December 18 and the Christmas party and various leaving dos".

“Each one doubles, so if the prime minister attended six gatherings and five of which he’s at risk of getting a fixed penalty notice for – if he get’s a fixed penalty notice in order for each one then he could end up paying over £10,000," he told Sky News.

When asked whether he thinks there are further fines in the pipeline for Mr Johnson, the lawyer said: “I would be surprised if there aren’t. "

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He added: “I think there has already been fixed penalty notices given out for one of the leaving dos.

“If all of them were quite similar it seems to me there’s going to be a number of fixed penalty notices, probably for the prime minister as well.”

Will Sue Gray's report be published?

The top civil servant who ran an internal Cabinet Office investigation into Downing Street parties before sparking a police investigation by passing officers evidence of potential criminality is still set to publish her full report.

Ms Gray condemned a "serious failure" in Downing Street to observe coronavirus standards in her initial update but she was asked to withhold the full report until police had concluded their inquiry.

Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana said the full version of the report "could be damning".

She said it "won’t be pretty" because the civil servant has been asked to "paint a full picture of what happened", which is likely to include a "bare-all look" at the allegations, which include "suitcases of booze, karaoke machines, and even – on one occasion – a physical fight in the middle of the night".

Peston said it is "going to be incredibly damaging" both for Downing Street and the PM personally.

But, he said, "I don't expect him to go even after that".