Keir Starmer has today defended Labour’s public scrutiny of the wives of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, after calling for Carrie Johnson to be named if she receives a ‘Partygate’ fine.
The Labour leader yesterday demanded the public must be told if Mrs Johnson receives a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) as part of the Met Police’s ongoing probe into alleged parties at Downing Street during the Covid pandemic.
The call for scrutiny came after Labour chiefs urged Rishi Sunak to answer questions about his wife Akshata Murthy’s 0.91 per cent stake in Infosys – a consultancy firm her father founded – over claims the company is still operating in Russia.
But yesterday, in a rare intervention regarding his private life, the Chancellor hit back over the criticism of his wife’s family business, describing Labour’s claims as ‘very upsetting’ and saying it was ‘wrong for people to try and come at my wife’.
Today Sir Keir said he agreed the families of politicians should ‘not be brought into political arguments.
But he defended his party’s decision to scrutinise the wives of the Chancellor and Prime Minister in these instances.
Asked on Sky News if, by calling for Mrs Johnson to be named if among the list of fines handed out for Partygate that the public was entitled to know if his own wife would need to disclose future parking fines, Sir Keir said: ‘There’s a huge difference between the situation of the wife of the Prime Minister breaking the rules made by the Prime Minister and any other situation.
‘I’m not focusing on Carrie here. I actually do agree with the general argument that the families of politicians shouldn’t be dragged in.’
Sir Keir Starmer has today defended Labour’s public scrutiny of the wives of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, after calling for Carrie Johnson to be named if she receives a ‘Partygate’ fine
The Labour leader yesterday demanded the public must be told if Mrs Johnson (pictured) receives a Fixed Penalty Notice as part of the Met Police’s ongoing probe into alleged parties at Downing Street during the Covid pandemic
Yesterday Sir Keir said Mrs Johnson (pictured here with Boris Johnson at the 2019 Tory party conference) should be named by No 10 if she receives a fine. ‘If Carrie Johnson gets a fixed-penalty notice, then of course it should be made public,’ he told broadcasters on Thursday
The call for scrutiny came after Labour chiefs urged Rishi Sunak to answer questions about his wife Akshata Murthy’s (pictured here with the Chancellor) minority stake in Infosys – a consultancy firm her father founded – over claims the firm is still operating in Russia
Asked about Labour’s comments about Mr Sunak’s wife, Sir Keir replied: ‘Well Rishi Sunak’s wife, again I do agree with the general proposition that family members shouldn’t be brought into political argument.
‘But so far as the Chancellor’s wife is concerned, this is just a fundamental question of principle here, which is ‘Is her household benefiting from money made in Russia when the Government has put in place sanctions?’. That is in the public interest to have an answer.
‘I’m not attacking their family, I don’t agree with that way of doing politics. But what I do want to know is, is the Chancellor’s household benefitting from money from a company that has invested in Russia, when the Government, quite rightly, that nobody should be doing that and sanctions should be doing that?
‘We should, particularly in the dreadful situation in Ukraine, frankly, be doing every thing we can, not only to make life more difficult in Russia but to cripple their ability to function.
‘It’s not a personal attack, I don’t agree with that, but I would have though the Chancellor would want to come clean on this and say actually ‘I can be very very clear that my household doesn’t benefit from money made in Russia’.
‘It would actually benefit his wife if he just answered that question.’
It comes as one of Mr Johnson’s ministers yesterday said the Prime Minister would probably declare whether he had been issued with a fine as a result of the police probe into alleged Downing Street parties, one of his ministers has said.
Kit Malthouse, who served as a deputy mayor of London when Boris Johnson was in City Hall, was asked, as someone who knows the Prime Minister well, whether he was likely to confirm if he had received a fine.
The crime and policing minister told LBC: ‘It is a hypothetical question, but I think if he did, he probably would, yes.’
Asked whether the Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, was likely to do the same, Mr Malthouse replied: ‘You’d have to ask her.’
Mr Malthouse said he felt the situation on FPNs was different for elected officials than it was for others being investigated as part of the partygate allegations.
‘From a personal point of view as a politician, I think I’m in a different situation – if I got a Fixed Penalty Notice, I would tell you,’ he added.
However he said that he did not see a reason to break from the routine practice that those issued with fixed penalty notices are not named by officers.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Home Office minister said: ‘A fixed penalty notice means police have a reasonable belief that you’ve broken the law – you still have a right to challenge it if you want.
‘Having said that, the police practice is not routinely to release the names of those who receive fixed penalties, and I don’t see why that rule should be waived for those people who may or may not be in receipt of it in Downing Street.’
It comes as Sir Keir yesterday called for it to be made public if Mrs Johnson receives a fine over ‘Partygate’.
Kit Malthouse (pictured), who served as a deputy mayor of London when Boris Johnson was in City Hall, was asked, as someone who knows the Prime Minister well, whether he was likely to confirm if he had received a fine
The Metropolitan police announced this week that it would issue 20 fixed-penalty notices as a result of its investigation into 12 gatherings held in Downing Street while Covid restrictions were in place.
But the force controversially said it would not name those involved – in line with its usual policy over Fixed Penalty Notices.
No 10 has proactively said it will reveal whether the prime minister or the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, have received fines.
But it has suggested other individuals will not be named. Carrie Johnson is alleged to have held one of the ‘parties’ in the Downing Street flat.
It is also alleged that the organised a birthday gathering for the Prime Minister, in which it was claimed he was ‘ambushed by cake’.
Yesterday Sir Keir said Mrs Johnson should be named by No 10 if she receives a fine.
‘If Carrie Johnson gets a fixed-penalty notice, then of course it should be made public,’ he told broadcasters on Thursday.
‘My focus is on the prime minister because he is the one who sets the culture, he is the one who oversaw this criminality at his home and his office, he is the one that came to parliament and said all rules were complied with, which is clearly not the case.’
Mr Johnson is under increasing pressure after he stubbornly refused to admit that lockdown laws were broken in Downing Street despite the Met handing out 20 fines earlier this week.
In a toe-curling appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee, the PM repeatedly blanked questions about whether the rules had been breached.
Under fire from senior MPs, he insisted: ‘I been very clear I won’t give a running commentary on an ongoing investigation.’
Mr Johnson – who is waiting to find out whether he personally will get a fixed penalty notice – also suggested that he will not speak about the issue until after a report by top civil servant Sue Gray is published, rather than when the police conclude their probe.
Downing Street stuck doggedly to the same stance when pressed by journalists yesterday, despite acknowledging the ‘facts are not in dispute’.
‘We have been clear that mistakes were made, the Prime Minister believes it is right to respond once the full facts are known, once the investigation has concluded.’
However, Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan admitted that police issuing a first batch of 20 fines meant lockdown laws had been broken.
The comments, in a round of interviews yesterday morning, echoed the views voiced by Dominic Raab but came despite the PM stubbornly refusing to concede the point.
Pictured: Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020 – although this incident is not believed to be under investigation by police
Ms Trevelyan told Sky News: ‘I think if you or I get a fine, we hopefully pay it and move on from there. And I hope, and I assume, that those who have been fined by the police will pay their fines and that will be the punishment that they have accepted.’
Pressed on whether 20 fines being issued meant there were 20 instances the law being broken, she said: ‘Well, that’s right. They’ve broken the regulations that were set in the Covid Act, and police deem that that was what they did and therefore they’ve been fined accordingly.’
Asked why the PM would not say this, she said: ‘Because, as I say, he wants to wait until the whole process of the police review has been done.’
Scotland Yard announced on Tuesday that is issuing the first tranche of fixed penalty notices to people who attended ‘Partygate’ events.
But the force warned that its investigation still has some distance to run, saying there is a ‘significant’ amount of material yet to be assessed.
Mr Johnson was not among the initial group fined, and police say individuals will not be named – as well as ruling out disclosing which events they attended.
The government has promised to reveal if the PM or Cabinet Secretary Simon Case are issued with penalties.
Keir Starmer said that the public should be told if Carrie Johnson is issued a fine .
Speaking to broadcasters in Bury, the Labour Party leader said: ‘If Carrie Johnson gets a fixed penalty notice, then of course it should be made public.
‘My focus is on the Prime Minister because he is the one who sets the culture, he is the one who oversaw this criminality at his home and his office, he is the one that came to Parliament and said all rules were complied with, which is clearly not the case.
‘So I do think Carrie Johnson should be named if she gets a penalty notice, but my focus is laser-like on the Prime Minister.’
The first FPNs are thought to be ‘clear-cut’ cases where people are not denying allegations.
The PM is said to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation and has received a legal questionnaire – equivalent to being interviewed under caution – but he has rejected claims he broke rules.
During the Liaison Committee hearing, SNP MP Pete Wishart asked Mr Johnson to accept that ‘there has been criminality committed’.
He replied: ‘I have been, I hope, very frank with the House about where I think we have gone wrong and the things that I regret, that I apologise for.
‘But there is an ongoing investigation… I am going to camp pretty firmly on my position.’
Making clear he had not yet received a fine, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have been several times to the House to talk about this and to explain and to apologise and to set out the things that we are doing to change the way things run in No 10.
‘But what I also said repeatedly… I won’t give a running commentary on an investigation that is under way.’
He said he understood that people would be ‘naturally curious’ about the situation but ‘it would be wrong of me to deviate from that’.
Mr Johnson added: ‘I think you are going to have to hold your horses and wait until the conclusion of the investigation, when there will be a lot more clarity.’