Boris Johnson has been told by the public fury at lockdown-breaking Downing Street parties that the Conservatives will suffer substantial losses at the local elections next month, with the possibility that the prime minister will receive further police fines ahead of the polling day.
Steve Baker, a prominent backbench Tory MP, said voters were repeatedly mentioning the Partygate scandal on the campaign trail and the Conservatives should prepare for the whirlwind of standing by Johnson.
The former Brexit minister, who called for Johnson to quit earlier this week, told the Daily Telegraph that he was not sincere when he apologised to parliament for breaking lockdown rules, and that the contrition did not last much longer than it took to get out of the headmaster's study. By the time we got to the Committee meeting in 1922, it was the usual festival of bombast and orgy of adulation. It took me about 90 seconds to realize that he wasn't really remorseful. He said that members of the cabinet who want the prime minister gone are sitting there fat, dumb and happy and letting me do the dirty work rather than risk their careers by publicly trying to force Johnson out of office. The Guardian reported that MPs believe that allies of Tory MPs such as Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt are already making preparations for leadership bids.
In 2010 Baker has represented Wycombe but his seat is now a key target for Labour, with current polling suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer's party would win the constituency if an election was held tomorrow.
Baker said that people lived under barbaric rules. They were told that if they deviated one iota from the law, they would kill people. And they suffered for it in No 10, where they should have been obeying both the letter and spirit of the rules, clearly they breached both. It comes after a report by ITV News said fixed-penalty notices had been emailed to officials who attended a Bring Your Own Booze Drink in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 at a time when indoor and outdoor gatherings were banned.
On Friday evening, Downing Street said that Johnson, who admitted to attending the garden party but insisted he believed that this was a work event, has not received a fine in relation to the gathering.
While he has been fined once for attending his own birthday event in June 2020, there is the risk that he could be fined more often, with claims that police are looking into another five possible rule-breaking events he is said to have attended.
The Met will not make any public updates on the number of fines issued after the local elections. The prime minister will still get fines in the lead up to the polling day, according to Downing Street.
The PM will be subject to a third inquiry by the House of Commons privileges committee on the Partygate scandal, in addition to a police investigation and an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray. It will try to determine whether he knew about rule breaches before making his statements to MPs. This week, an attempt to block this third investigation failed due to a backbench rebellion.
After his final day in India on Friday, the prime minister said he would still be in power in the autumn, having set the target of signing a trade deal with New Delhi by October.