In June 2020, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak attended a birthday celebration at Downing Street for his employer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for which he was fined by Scotland Yard for violating COVID lockdown regulations. Sunak tendered a “unreserved apologies” and paid the amount levied on him by Scotland Yard.
The apology was delivered in a statement on Tuesday evening, after Johnson’s own apologies and confirmation that he, too, had paid his punishment. The Indian-origin finance minister expressed his regret in the statement.
As the partygate scandal draws to a close, Sunak’s job as Chancellor has had a particularly difficult few days, after charges of potentially fraudulent tax savings by his Indian wife Akshata Murty and his own US Green Card while serving in a prominent political position in the United Kingdom.
Immediately following the incident, Murty, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, issued a statement stating that she will now choose to pay all of her taxes in the United Kingdom in order to avoid her legally permitted non-domicile tax status from becoming a distraction for her minister husband.
While waiting for the results of the investigation, Sunak has referred himself to the government’s independent watchdog to ensure that he has submitted all of the legally necessary ministerial statements of his financial affairs.
While the opposition has called for the resignation of the two senior-most government officials who were involved in partygate, both Johnson and Sunak have said that they plan to continue in their current positions.
Cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs in the United Kingdom have mainly rallied behind the two, since a leadership election is not seen ideal in the middle of the Russia-Ukraine war and the acute cost of living issue in the country.
Johnson made the following remark earlier on Tuesday in a video message from his Chequers residence: “To be quite honest, it never occurred to me at the time that this may have been a violation of the regulations. However, the police have concluded differently, and I totally accept their decision on the result of their inquiry.”
Following confirmation that she had been issued and paid a fine for the same Cabinet Room party at Downing Street, to which she had brought a cake in order to surprise her husband on his birthday on June 19, 2020, Carrie Johnson also expressed “unreserved regret.”
As a result of their actions, it is envisaged that the Johnsons and Sunak would have received a fixed penalty notice of 200 pounds apiece, which is a discipline equivalent to receiving a parking ticket. After the fine has been paid in full, there is no need to go to court unless the decision is disputed.
Coronavirus lockdowns, which restricted such gatherings in order to stem the spread of the lethal virus, were implemented in December 2021, and reports of parties being hosted in Downing Street first surfaced in December 2021. Both Johnson and Sunak had said at the time that they did not plan to attend any social gathering.
However, following the revelations of several gatherings, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ordered an investigation into allegations of rule-breaking, which was led by senior civil servant Sue Gray. He was also forced to apologise in front of Parliament for the reports of lockdown violations.
Towards the conclusion of her investigation, Gray sent evidence to the Metropolitan Police, which discovered some misconduct, and Operation Hillman was established early this year.
The full Sue Gray report will not be made public until after the Metropolitan Police Department has completed its inquiry, at which point Johnson has pledged to making a statement to the House of Commons as well.