UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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- An unnamed Johnson ally told The Times that police must be “very certain” before issuing the PM with a penalty over partygate.
- Some Tories, including Johnson supporters, said that equated to political pressure.
- They called on Johnson to disown those comments.
Boris Johnson has been urged to disown comments given by an unnamed senior ally that suggested the police should give the prime minister special treatment over possible partygate penalties.
The Metropolitan Police is investigating multiple events which may have breached COVID-19 regulations in place in England at the time. Johnson attended six of the gatherings being probed.
The Met Police is expected to submit letters to 50 people in Westminster on Friday asking them to account for potential breaches of the rules.
The prime minister expected to be among them and Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Police commissioner who quit Thursday after losing the confidence of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said that “some but probably not all” of the 50 individuals being contacted would receive a fixed penalty notice.
But the ally told The Times of London that Scotland Yard would need to be “very certain” that he breached lockdown rules before issuing him with a fixed penalty notice.
“There is inevitably a degree of discretion here,” they said. “Do you want the Metropolitan Police deciding who the prime minister is? They have to be very certain [before issuing a fine].
Those remarks provoked outrage among some Conservative figures, including some who until recently supported Johnson.
Sir Bob Neill, chairman of the justice select committee, said: “It is completely inappropriate to suggest that there should be any special treatment for anyone involved in these inquiries and any suggestion of political pressure on the police is completely reprehensible. No. 10 would do well to disown it.”
And Nick Timothy, a former advisor to Theresa May, said: “This is a completely unacceptable attempt to pressure the police and influence the outcome of their investigation.”
Will Tanner, another former Number 10 aide, said: “We should be clear about this. The police are not deciding who is PM. Officers are investigating potential breaches of the law. Any attempt to question the Met’s operational independence on this would be an extraordinary departure from conservative principles and history.”
David Gauke, a former MP and minister, added: “There’s an obvious rule of law issue here. Presumably the Lord Chancellor & A-G [attorney general] will want to condemn these foolish remarks?”
A source told The Times that Johnson plans to argue that he was in a “unique legal situation because Downing Street is both his workplace and his home.”
“He will not be winging it,” the source said.