It remained unclear if Johnson himself was in the clear. The police signaled that this may be the first tranche of fines, and that some individuals were only just now being contacted.
Both the police and Downing Street said they would not be naming the 20 individuals cited nor the specific parties they attended. But the prime minister’s spokesman said Tuesday that if Johnson were among those fined, the office would confirm the fact. Johnson would not otherwise comment, the spokesman said, while the police investigation and a parallel inquiry by a senior civil servant remained active.
Police are looking into 12 gatherings that took place at 10 Downing Street and the nearby Cabinet Office. The fetes, attended by government staffers, involved quiz games, “BYOB” invitations, singing, cheese boards – and alcohol that needed to be brought in via wheeled luggage. These took place during periods when families were denied visits to loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals and the number of attendees at funerals was limited.
Revelations about the gatherings prompted rage from the British public, the resignations of Johnson’s top aides and forecasts of the prime minister’s political demise. The House of Commons rang out with calls from the opposition – and a few from his fellow Conservative Party members – for Johnson to resign.
But the “Partygate” scandal has since been largely superseded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion – and Britain’s commitment to sanction Russian oligarchs and provide weapons to Ukraine – now has the public’s eyes and ears and may have helped save Johnson’s premiership.
Those set to be fined over “Partygate” have 28 days to contest the charge, or they can simply pay the amount, likely to be 200 pounds ($ 263) – half if paid promptly.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said, “We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments.”
The police cautioned that more fines may be coming, noting that “due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made.”
The police earlier said they are reviewing more than 300 images and more than 500 pages of information.
An internal investigation of the Downing Street parties found that some of the gatherings showed “a serious failure” to observe the standards expected of government officials and the British population.
Now, even some of Johnson’s critics say it feels wrong – even silly – to be talking about parties at Downing Street while Russian tanks are attacking in Eastern Europe.