Rishi Sunak apologises over Partygate fine after six hours of silence

‘I’m sorry’: Rishi Sunak finally apologises over Partygate fine after six hours of silence

  • Embattled Chancellor previously said had not attended any parties in lockdown
  • But he was slapped with a £50 fine for Cabinet Room gathering on June 19, 2020
  • He apologised six hours later, fuelling speculation about his future in No11
  • It comes after the backlash over wife Akshata Murty’s former non-dom status

Rishi Sunak apologised last night after he was fined for attending a birthday gathering for the Prime Minister.

The embattled Chancellor previously said he thought he was in the clear as he did not believe he had attended any lockdown-busting parties.

But he was slapped with a £50 fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for attending the gathering in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.

It is understood the Chancellor ended up attending only because he was due to be in a Covid meeting at the same location.

He issued a statement apologising shortly after 8pm last night – six hours after it emerged he had been fined – with his silence until then fuelling speculation about his future in No11.

Boris Johnson, who also received a fixed penalty notice for the same event, had apologised in a TV clip more than two hours earlier. Labour had insisted the Chancellor’s failure to comment was ‘bizarre’.

Mr Sunak said in his statement: ‘I can confirm I have received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police with regards to a gathering held on June 19th in Downing Street. I offer an unreserved apology.

Both Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) have been issued fixed penalty notices

Mr Sunak pictured during a Q&A with employees, local residents and businesses at Darlington College on Monday

‘I understand that for figures in public office the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence.

‘I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine. I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.

‘Like the Prime Minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time.’ 

Mr Sunak had claimed to be in the clear over the Partygate saga. 

In February, he said he did not believe he had broken lockdown rules but acknowledged he attended a ‘Covid meeting’ in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.

In January, following Mr Johnson’s apology to MPs over the scandal, he abruptly broke off an interview when pressed if he would give his full support to the Prime Minister. 

Downing Street’s confirmation yesterday afternoon that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were fined came after a torrid week for the Chancellor.

He has faced a backlash over his wife Akshata Murty’s former non-dom status. 

The Government’s ethics chief Lord Geidt will now examine whether Mr Sunak declared all the relevant information about his family finances needed to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The Chancellor said he was angered by ‘upsetting’ criticism of his wife and father-in-law over her family firm’s links to Russia and told people not to ‘come at’ her. 

But he was warned by a former Tory minister yesterday not to ‘resign on principle’ over Partygate in an attempt to position himself as a future Conservative leader.

Mr Sunak pictured as he leaves Downing Street last month. The Chancellor apologised six hours after it emerged he had been fined, fuelling speculation over his future

The senior MP said such a move would be ‘farcical’. 

They told the Daily Mail: ‘If Rishi starts machinating now saying “I will resign on a matter of principle” – knowing full well that it will add pressure on the Prime Minister – then people will not forgive him for creating that very difficult situation.’

The ex-minister said Mr Sunak, who was widely tipped as a potential successor to Mr Johnson before his family finances were scrutinised, now ‘couldn’t possibly take over in a job where the incumbent has had to resign for the same offence committed at the same time.

‘If Boris were to go because of this, then it simply isn’t feasible that Rishi could succeed him.’

Mr Sunak was heavily criticised at the height of Partygate for deserting the Prime Minister as he faced a crunch Question Time in the Commons.

Last night a series of Cabinet colleagues voiced their support for Mr Sunak and the PM.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said they have ‘my 100 per cent backing’ while Justice Secretary Dominic Raab and Housing Secretary Michael Gove declared their ‘full support’. 

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