Conservative MPs in Nottinghamshire have generally pledged their support for Boris Johnson after he apologised for attending a law-breaking birthday party at Downing Street. Residents across the county have however condemned the actions of the Prime Minister, his wife Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak who have also been fined.
The Met Police slapped Mr Johnson and his wife with fines upon his return from Ukraine amid the ongoing war with invading Russia. For Mr Sunak the week got even worse as the fine was given just days after the revelations surrounding his financial affairs and US citizenship, which also prompted calls for his resignation.
They relate to a gathering held at Downing Street on June 19, 2020, which Mr Johnson himself described as a “brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting less than 10 minutes”. He added: “I have paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology.” Mr Johnson became the UK’s first serving PM to be sanctioned for breaking the law.
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‘A gathering at work that broke the rules? Yes. But a party? No’
All three have apologised. Following this a number of Conservative MPs in Nottinghamshire pledged their support for the Prime Minister, while the city’s Labour MPs demanded he resign. Lee Anderson, Ashfield’s Conservative MP, said: “So the ‘party’ was a 10 minute gathering in the Cabinet Office with members of staff already in the same building who went in to wish the PM a Happy Birthday.
“I suppose there could be some confusion about gatherings in the workplace but if the Met have issued a fine then it should be paid and an apology issued. The PM has done both. Please take a look at his explanation and then ask yourself the question: ‘Was this a deliberate act of breaking the law or was it carelessness?’
“I speak as someone who was very angry at the time and was very vocal about the situation as I could not visit my wife in hospital. That said, no one can convince me that this was a party. A gathering at work that broke the rules? Yes. But a party? No.”
Similarly Sherwood’s Conservative MP Mark Spencer, who is now the leader of the House of Commons, similarly offered his “whole support”. He added: “The PM has apologised and taken responsibility for what happened in Downing Street. He and the Chancellor are delivering a growing economy during global challenges and delivering on the international security crisis we face.”
The Met says a total of 50 fines have now been handed out in relation to the ongoing investigations into gatherings at Whitehall and Downing Street while Covid restrictions were in force. The force is looking at 12 parties overall and a Sue Gray report into these is still due.
Gedling’s Tom Randall and Broxtowe’s Darren Henry, while pledging their support, used a somewhat more sceptical tone in relation to the events in London. Both emphasised they would await the findings from the Sue Gray report which is looking into a “concerning background of events”.
‘Everyone, myself included, followed the rules in lockdown. I know people who died’
Across Nottinghamshire residents expressed their displeasure in the fines handed out to those who are in power and devised the rules and regulations throughout the pandemic. Many of these restrictions prevented families from seeing their loved ones even as they died in hospital.
In affluent Southwell Janet Waters, 72, called for resignations. “They’re lying and surely we deserve honesty at the top. I think they’re not taking it seriously. There’s surely something in the constitution that they can’t lie and if they’re guilty they should resign.”
But Alice Snowden, 35, a cathedral administrator in Southwell, said they were “only human”. She said: “I think it is bad but they’re not the only ones that broke rules. I think that they shouldn’t have done it in their positions but they are only human.”
In the city suburb of Sneinton, meanwhile, residents said those in power “have got a lot to answer for”. Paul Marsden, 66, a painter and decorator, said: “They have got a lot to answer for. I think something has to be done. All of them are lying cheats. Anyone we elect will lie and cheat. The government is messed up.”
And Reg Davey, 43, a self employed science journalist, added: “I think they should resign. Everyone, myself included, followed the rules in lockdown. I know people who died. It’s disgusting. I totally think they should stand down. The Prime Minister and government that can’t follow its own rules isn’t worth being in power.”
Reports of parties held at Downing Street first came to light last year. Mr Johnson initially said that guidelines were followed “at all times”.