Analysis: It's a scandal, but has some of the sting gone from partygate?

In the unlikely event anyone had any doubts, it’s now official: figures at the heart of Boris Johnson's government broke Covid rules.

Twenty fixed penalty notices have been issued by police, although the force won't say who has received them or which events they relate to.

More are expected to follow.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister is not among those fined.

Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

That would pose the biggest threat to Boris Johnson.

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World events mean the initial partygate furore feels like a lifetime ago, and ministers may hope to use that to their advantage.

Cabinet minster Jacob Rees-Mogg recently dismissed the row as "fluff" and "fundamentally trivial".

To fully appreciate the latest development, however, it’s worth going back to what was said at the end of last year.

"I can tell you that the guidelines were followed at all times,” Mr Johnson told the BBC on December 7.

“All guidance was followed completely in No 10,” he stated in the Commons a few days before.

And yet here we are, four months and 20 fines later.

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Fundamentally, this isn’t about the details of Christmas quizzes and suitcases full of booze, as fun as those are.

It’s about people who felt entitled to break the rules everyone else was expected to follow, and what that says about their attitudes to power and responsibility.

It’s about who made sacrifices and who didn’t.

Far from being “fluff”, partygate is unquestionably a scandal.

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But it’s also true that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed things, whether or not we find that palatable.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross recently withdrew his calls for Mr Johnson to resign, citing the war in Europe.

The Prime Minister is now under less internal pressure, and internal pressure is far harder to ignore than opposition jibes.

Of course, everything could change once more if Mr Johnson is fined.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray has also yet to publish her full report.

The truncated version was damning enough, with its references to excessive boozing and failures of leadership.

For now, some of the sting has undoubtedly gone from partygate.

But this is far from over.



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