LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Mr Boris Johnson won’t be fined again for breaking coronavirus regulations after UK police concluded a probe into rule-breaking gatherings during lockdown, a major boost for the Prime Minister after months of turmoil.
London’s Metropolitan Police said on Thursday (May 19) it has made a total of 126 referrals for fines as part of its investigation into the “partygate” allegations that have dogged the Prime Minister and his government.
Mr Johnson, who received a fine last month, has been told he won’t receive another, his spokesman Max Blain told reporters at a regular briefing.
The pressure on Mr Johnson from within his ruling Conservative Party has eased considerably in recent weeks due to the crisis in Ukraine, which shifted the focus of would-be Tory rebels seeking to oust him.
But the police probe was still hanging over him, and there was still the potential that further fines or damaging details could spur his critics to try again to remove him.
Thursday’s police statement removes one of the key risks facing Mr Johnson.
While the expected publication of an internal civil service report on the allegations next week could yet undermine him, Mr Johnson now looks more likely to lead the Tories into the next general election, due by 2024 at the latest.
Instead, the pressure is likely to build on Labour leader Keir Starmer, who faces his own police probe into allegations of coronavirus rule-breaking while campaigning in northern England last year.
Mr Starmer has repeatedly called on Mr Johnson to resign after the Prime Minister – along with his wife and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – were fined for attending a birthday gathering for the premier during the pandemic.
“My view of the Prime Minister hasn’t changed,” Mr Starmer told Sky News after the police announcement on Thursday.
“After an investigation that shows 120-plus breaches of the law in Downing Street, of course he should resign. He’s responsible for the culture.”
Mr Starmer has himself pledged to resign if he gets a police fine. But the strategy of applying that standard to Mr Johnson looks almost certain to fail given the prime minister will not be given a further penalty.
It could yet be the case that Labour will be the party looking for a new leader.