Most Norfolk MPs keep quiet over PM's partygate fine

Prime minister Boris Johnson has taken the decision to delay the final round of lockdown easing

Prime minister Boris Johnson - Credit: PA

Most Norfolk MPs have been staying tight-lipped after it emerged Boris Johnson was to be issued with a fine for attending a birthday party thrown for him during a Covid lockdown.

The prime minister - along with wife, Carrie Johnson, and chancellor Rishi Sunak - is to receive a fixed penalty notice for going to the gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020, in breach of rules imposed to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

It means Mr Johnson is the UK's first serving prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law, and has lead to calls for his resignation from political opponents, and some members of his own party.

Richard Bacon speaking at the How Norfolk Should Grow conference

Richard Bacon speaking at the How Norfolk Should Grow conference - Credit: Archant

In a statement, Mr Johnson offered a "full apology" saying it did not occur to him his birthday gathering would breach the rules but he would respect the outcome of the police investigation.

We contacted all the MPs in Norfolk and Waveney to get their response to the news and to ask whether they thought Mr Johnson should resign.

Richard Bacon, the MP for South Norfolk, said: "I think the answer is no. No one will resign, that's my opinion. I would be surprised if anyone did."

Asked if Mr Johnson should show contrition after breaking laws he helped set, Mr Bacon said: "I think it is a good idea to show contrition but do I think it's necessary to stand down, no I don't."

Broadland Conservative MP Jerome Mayhew. Picture: Danielle Booden

Broadland Conservative MP Jerome Mayhew. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

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Jerome Mayhew, the MP for Broadland, said he needed to give the matter serious thought before he was able to respond.

None of the other Norfolk and Waveney Conservative MPs - Liz Truss, Brandon Lewis, Duncan Baker, Chloe Smith, James Wild, George Freeman and Peter Aldous - responded to our requests for comment.

Ms Truss later tweeted: "The Prime Minister has apologised and taken responsibility for what happened in Downing Street. He and the Chancellor are delivering for Britain on many fronts including on the international security crisis we face. They have my 100% backing."

Waveney MP Mr Aldous was previously among a group of Conservative MPs who called on Mr Johnson to step down when the allegations of lockdown breaches first emerged.

Some of those other earlier Tory critics - from other parts of the country - are understood to have stopped their calls for the prime minister to go, saying the war in Ukraine means it would be an inappropriate time for a change of leadership.

Labour's only MP in the region, Norwich South's Clive Lewis had also previously called for Mr Johnson to resign but expressed doubts that the PM would do so.

He was also doubtful that opposition parties would be able to win a no-confidence vote due to the Tory's 80-seat majority in parliament.

Clive Lewis MP

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis - Credit: Chris McAndrew

"He's clung on to power, as long as he remains an electoral asset he won't resign," Mr Lewis said.

"This shows that there is something wrong with our democracy.

"We were told we were taking back control of our sovereignty [in Brexit] but that was a lie because the majority of the power rests with him and he knows that.

"Our democracy is in need of an overhaul, not just a new face."

News of the fines, reported to be £50, comes just weeks before voters go to the polls in the local elections, and Conservatives will be anxious to see how the issue plays out.

They will not be studying the region's results for too many signs, however, as the only local elections here are in Norwich, where the city has not elected a Conservative councillor since 2008.

Among those calling for Mr Johnson and the chancellor to resign were Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, and Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

Mr Starmer said: "Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign.

"The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better."

The Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has called for parliament to be recalled to discuss a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson. However, recall can only happen at the request of the PM.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, a group of 6,000 who lost loved ones to Covid, has also called for the PM to quit.

The group said the PM broke the law while taking "us all for mugs".

It added: "There is simply no way either the prime minister or chancellor can continue.

"Their dishonesty has caused untold hurt to the bereaved".

Boris Johnson's statement

"I have paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology," Mr Johnson said.

"In a spirit of openness and humility I want to be completely clear about what happened on that date."

Mr Johnson said he had chaired several meetings and visited a school before returning back to Downing Street.

"Amongst all these engagements on a day that happened to be my birthday 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.

"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 - but, of course, the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.

"I understand the anger that many will feel that I myself fell short when it came to observing the rules which the government I lead had introduced to protect the public and I accept that in all sincerity that people have the right to expect better.

"Now I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people: strengthening our economy, creating jobs and opportunities, levelling up the whole United Kingdom, now, of course, ensuring that Putin fails in Ukraine, and easing the burden imposed on hard-working families caused by higher energy prices.

"I will take forward that task with due humility, but with maximum determination to fulfil my duty and do what is best for the country I serve."