OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: Boris Johnson’s apology won’t be the end of Partygate

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 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Today, Boris Johnson returns to the House of Commons with another apology, this time following his fine for breaking his own Covid-19lockdown regulations.

With an 80-seat majority and a parliamentary party still behind him, Johnson appears safe for now. But he faces significant challenges.

First is the issue of the fines themselves. The Prime Minister could well be in receipt of additional fixed penalty notices. His supporters may argue there is little difference between one and many, but that is unlikely to wash with a public that put up with stringent lockdown restrictions, including those who were prevented from saying final goodbyes to loved ones.

The next test will be the local elections next month, including for councillors in all 32 London boroughs. It is not the war in Ukraine that is keeping Johnson in office, but the electoral calculus of Tory MPs. Should Labour make large gains at the Conservative’s expense, Johnson will face further pressure. Then of course there is the Sue Gray report, to be published when all the fines have been handed out.

This morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis attempted to play down the fine, comparing it with a speeding infraction. This attitude suggests that those at the top still do not get it.

The political historian Lord Hennesey shed light on its significance, saying Johnson had “shredded the ministerial code” and that his fine was the “most severe constitutional crisis involving a prime minister”. Johnson’s statement to the House was a real moment in British politics. It is, however, unlikely to mark the end of the matter.

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