London (U.K.)- Britain’s Metropolitan Police told Prime Minister Boris Johnson he faced no further action over lockdown-breaching gatherings at his official residence and other government sites after the force said Thursday it had concluded its investigation into politicians’ parties that violated the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
Police said they issued 126 fixed-penalty notices to 83 people for gatherings on eight dates between May 2020 — at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the United Kingdom — and April 2021. Some people were hit with multiple fines.
The media-dubbed “party gate” scandal has dealt a severe blow to Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson apologized last month after revealing that he was one of the dozens who paid a police fine for attending lockdown-violating parties and gatherings. As a result, he became the first British leader to be sanctioned for violating the law.
Revelations that Johnson and other senior officials gathered illegally in government buildings — including enjoying “wine time Fridays” reportedly organized by Johnson’s staff — at a time when millions in the country stuck to strict government lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 have angered voters and triggered calls for Johnson to resign.
The conclusion of the police investigation means that results from a separate probe by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, can now be published. Government officials say the Gray report, which is being closely watched for how it censures Johnson and his Conservative government, will be posted as soon as possible, though that’s unlikely before next week.
Johnson’s spokesman said Thursday he would not be receiving any more fines on top of what he has already paid.
“The Met has confirmed they are taking no further action” against the prime minister, spokesman Max Blain said.
Police do not identify the people who received fines. Still, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Johnson’s wife, Carrie, have said they were among those fined along with Johnson for attending a birthday party thrown for the prime minister in June 2020.
Johnson has repeatedly apologized but denied that he knowingly broke the rules. He has insisted it “did not occur” that the gathering in his office, which he said lasted less than 10 minutes, was a party.
Opposition parties reiterated their calls for Johnson to resign and said the Gray report should be published without delay.
Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party leader, said there could be “no further hiding places” for Johnson for the “industrial-scale lawbreaking” at government sites.
“That reflects a culture, and the prime minister sets the culture,” he said.
Starmer himself faces a police investigation over his conduct during the pandemic — he had acknowledged he had a beer and a takeout curry with colleagues in April 2021, when the U.K. was under coronavirus restrictions. Starmer insisted that the meal was part of a working day and broke no rules.
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group called the police fines a “terrible insult” to all who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
“The nearly half a million pounds this investigation has cost could have been spent on support services for the bereaved. Instead, it was spent investigating our government because they lied and failed to acknowledge they had broken the law,” said Safiah Ngah, who lost her father to the virus in February 2021.
More than 177,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for the coronavirus, the highest toll in Europe after Russia.