'There weren't any pole dancers': Tory MP defends Boris Johnson after Partygate fine

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27:  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak visit 'Fourpure Brewery' in Bermondsey on October 27, 2021 in London, England. Earlier in the day, Sunak presented the government's budget, and how to
Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak have been fined by the Metropolitan police for breaking coronavirus laws during lockdown. (Getty)

A number of Conservative MPs are rejecting calls for Boris Johnson to resign after the Metropolitan police fined the prime minister for attending parties on Downing Street during lockdown.

Number 10 confirmed Johnson received a fine for a gathering in 10 Downing Street on 19 June, which ITV reported was a birthday party for the PM.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Carrie Johnson, the prime minister's wife, also received fines for breaching lockdown rules.

The news sparked a chorus of calls for the PM and chancellor to step down, with Sir Keir Starmer accusing both of repeatedly lying to the British public.

However, some Tory MPs have come to Johnson's defence.

Michael Fabricant played down the rule-breaking, claiming it was inappropriate to push for the PM's departure given the situation in Ukraine.

Read more: Partygate: Boris Johnson must resign over latest fines, say COVID victim's families

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson arrive to attend the annual Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, Britain, October 6, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Carrie Johnson, the prime minister's wife, also announced she received a fine from the Metropolitan police. (Reuters)

"I mean, the way it's been characterised, you know, you would think they were sort of pole dancers," Fabricant told BBC's 5 Live. "That certainly was not the case."

He said Johnson should go back to parliament and clarify the situation to MPs.

"I think the first thing the prime minister has to do is to go to the House of Commons and say, as he said before: 'Look, I don't believe - I didn't believe - at the time I was doing anything illegal, because, you know, it wasn't a party'," said Fabricant.

"'These were the same people which I've been working with all day. So there was no question, you see, of contagion, of people coming in from outside... and that's what the rules were all about'."

Staunch Johnson ally and culture secretary Nadine Dorries became the first cabinet minister to respond to the fines.

Read more: Partygate: Boris Johnson must resign over latest fines, say COVID victim's families

"PM has been clear about what happened on 19th June 2020 & offered a full apology," said Dorries.

"It was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room, less than 10 minutes during a busy working day. PM is at his best when delivering on the priorities of the British people which he will continue to do."

Johnson critic Sir Roger Gale has also rejected calls for Johnson's resignation.

"[I'm not] remotely surprised [about the fines]," said Gale, who sent in a letter of no confidence in Johnson during the Dominic Cummings saga two years ago,

"Of course, I'm disappointed. I think the prime minister faces a very serious situation because he has clearly misled the House of Commons.

"But all that said, I'm frankly astonished [that] Starmer appears to be calling for his resignation - we're in the middle of an international crisis.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak react at a statement on the economic update session, at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 23, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are coming under pressure to resign from opposition MPs. (Reuters)

"The overriding priority, the absolute priority, has got to be for the government of the United Kingdom to be stable - and to support our colleagues across Europe and the United States in sending a very clear message to Mr Putin that what he has done is unacceptable and has got to end.

"And that is the bottom line on this."

However, Gale told Yahoo News UK in January that: "the dignified way to go would be for [Johnson] to realise that the writing is on the wall, and to say that he intends to stand aside and to trigger a leadership contest himself. In a similar way that Thatcher did."

Read more: UK 'partygate': A timeline of Boris Johnson's lockdown scandals

Bereaved families have said there is “simply no way” the prime minister and chancellor can continue in post, saying they had "broke the law" and "took us all for mugs".

"Their dishonesty has caused untold hurt to the bereaved," said Lobby Akinnola, spokesman for COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

“Not only that, but they have lost all credibility with the wider public, which could cost lives if new variants mean restrictions are needed in the future.

“If they had any decency they would be gone by tonight.”

Watch: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak among more than 50 fined over Downing Street partygate scandal

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