The news that Boris Johnson has been fined for attending a birthday party held for him at the height of lockdown leads all the papers. The headline accompanying his image on the front page of The Sun is: “I’m sorry…. but I have work to do”. It says he has vowed to stay on to focus on Ukraine and the energy crisis, and the paper’s editorial argues that he should be allowed to do so, saying: “Now let’s deal with the real issues”
The Express calls the prime minister “a true leader”, and says now is not the time to bring the government down. The Mail criticises the opposition for calling for Mr Johnson’s resignation – “Don’t they know there’s a war on?”, asks its headline. It also says the police inquiry has been branded a farce.
Many other papers are far less forgiving. The Mirror says the country is “led by liars and lawbreakers” – and it says that letting Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak remain in Downing Street is a scandal. The Independent shows a picture of the Downing Street front door, with the words “scene of the crime”, while the Star headlines the row as the “cost of fibbing crisis”.
The Guardian says Mr Johnson’s position remains in peril despite his apology, as the police are still investigating more gatherings where he is said to have been present. Its editorial says that every day he remains in place, he “diminishes the highest office in the land”.
The Times reports that Rishi Sunak was on the brink of quitting after he was told about his fixed penalty notice. It says the chancellor was understood to have been angry that he was fined because he was never invited to the party, and had only been in Number Ten for a meeting with the prime minister.
The Telegraph calls the fine “the icing on the cake” of Mr Sunak’s recent woes. Associate editor Camilla Tominey says the chancellor could be forgiven for wondering how he had suddenly fallen from being the “government’s golden boy”. She says he could yet resign, in order to show accountability and restore his damaged reputation.
The editorial in The Financial Times acknowledges that this is a “far from ideal” time for a change in the UK, but says a government cannot retain its legitimacy if it does not follow the laws it has imposed on its citizens. It argues that a swift contest for a new Tory leader would allow the government to regroup, and focus on Ukraine.
Express columnist Leo McKinstry says the “Partygate bomb” has not had the devastating impact that might have been expected. He says that since MPs show no rush to oust Boris Johnson, the decision will probably hinge on the results of May’s local elections.