Furious Rishi Sunak has blamed Boris and Carrie Johnson for his Partygate fine and had to be talked out of quitting as Chancellor last night – relenting only because it would have taken down the Prime Minister as well.
Mr Sunak paid a £50 fine and apologised yesterday after police ruled he broke the law by attending a surprise birthday party in June 2020.
The event was organised by Mrs Johnson to mark the PM’s 56th birthday and the Chancellor is said to only have been present briefly as he made his way to a meeting in the building.
The Johnsons also apologised yesterday and paid their fines, but friends of Mr Sunak last night lashed out at the situation he found himself in.
One said the Chancellor had been ‘dragged into this’ damaging crisis because of the party arranged by Carrie, while a second told the Times: ‘Rishi’s view is he was just there for a meeting, and now he’s getting humiliated for something he never wanted to do. He is a man of honour and he genuinely is thinking about whether he can still be part of this.’
The situation marks a new low in the relations between No10 and 11. They are already at loggerheads over a series of leaks about Mr Sunak’s wife and her non-dom tax status, and the Chancellor’s own US Green Card immigration status.
Some in No11 believe the leaks came from next door in a bid to weaken the ambitious finance chief, something denied by the PM.
Mr Johnson may face more woe over the coming days, amid claims Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal is due next week and will be ‘uncomfortable reading’. There is also speculation he may face further police fines linked to other parties.
The Met revealed on Tuesday that at least 30 more fixed penalty notices were issued over the saga, with a spokesman for Number 10 confirming Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be among the recipients.
Calls for their resignations swelled in the hours after the announcement, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon among those calling for the country’s two top parliamentarians to step down.
Mr Sunak is said to have agonised for hours over whether to resign, spending the afternoon discussing his future with aides and allies, according to the Times.
The Chancellor reportedly had to be talked out of leaving his post because it would have piled more pressure on the Prime Minister to follow suit, the paper said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps attempted to defend the PM in interviews this morning. He told Sky News Mr Johnson is ‘human’ and humans ‘sometimes make mistakes’.
It’s something that happened in error, and as I have said, I’ve spoken to him, he is incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing.’ Mr Shapps added.
‘He knows that it was stupid, indefensible. But he didn’t set out to break the law, and he has paid the fixed penalty notice fine, and has a very big job to do.’