Harrogate MP warns Boris that ‘Partygate’ fines cannot be ‘brushed aside’

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Harrogate MP Andrew Jones has spoken out over the ‘Partygate’ punishment handed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson - warning, the fine cannot simply be ‘brushed aside’.

In the strongest expression yet of his unhappiness over the Prime Minister’s behaviour during Covid lockdown, Mr Jones said he had made his views known this week to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the influential 1922 committee of Tory backbench MPs.

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“If the fixed penalty notice the Prime Minister received on Tuesday were like any other one, a parking fine or speeding ticket, then perhaps it could be brushed aside,” said Mr Jones.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is warning 'Partygate' matters for the Prime Minister are far from over.Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is warning 'Partygate' matters for the Prime Minister are far from over.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is warning 'Partygate' matters for the Prime Minister are far from over.

“But it is not. It is a breach of the rules applied at a time of national crisis.

“We now know that at least 50 fixed penalty notices have been issued, and it is only right that those who broke the rules pay their penalties - whoever they are. No one should doubt my unhappiness at the situation.

"That is only compounded when I think of the sacrifices made by so many during the pandemic. I have made my views known to all the relevant parties in Parliament, including the 1922 Committee.”

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By being served with a fixed penalty for attending his birthday gathering at Downing Street in June 2020, Mr Johnson became the UK’s first serving prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law.

While opposition politicians including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have called for him to resign, so far the bulk of Tory MPs have either expressed support or remained silent - even the ones who earlier in the 'Partygate' scandal in January and February had called for Mr Johnson to go.

But, from the moment ‘Partygate’ began to dominate headlines in January, Mr Jones has been clear in his view that there can be no blank cheque when it comes to the rules - even for the Prime Minister.

Most Tory Party commentators argue now is not the time for a change of leadership as the crisis in Ukraine shows no sign of easing and the nation is gripped by the cost of living crisis.

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So far only two Tory backbenchers, Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire, and Craig Whittaker, the MP for Calder Valley, have called on Mr Johnson to step down since the lockdown party fines were issued earlier this week.

But news of the 50 fixed penalty notices issued by the police for law breaking at Downing Street provoked one resignation yesterday, that of Lords justice minister David Wolfson who wrote that the "scale, context and nature" of Covid breaches in government was inconsistent with the rule of law.

Labour's shadow justice secretary Steve Reed hailed Lord Wolfson "for taking a principled stand" while the Lib Dem's justice spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said Lord Wolfson's resignation showed people had "had enough of Boris Johnson acting as though he is above the law".

The feeling is the moment of danger for the Prime Minister has passed for now.

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But Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones is warning this damaging matter for the Prime Minister is far from closed.

And Mr Jones hinted that a judgement would have to be made on the PM's future at some point.

“My correspondence with the Chair of the 1922 Committee, to whom a letter of no confidence must be submitted, is as confidential as my correspondence with constituents,” Andrew Jones said.

“But the issuing of fines has clarified the situation enough to be able to make a judgement, though I still want the Sue Gray Report published in full.”

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