In recent weeks Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has revived his fortunes at home by becoming Europe’s most aggressive supporter of Ukraine’s fierce fight against Russian invasion.
But on Tuesday Mr. Johnson was battling for his own survival again, after police fined him for attending a lockdown party in Downing Street that broke coronavirus laws made in the very same building.
Mr. Johnson said on Tuesday night that he had paid the fine, though he did not say how much it was, insisting that he would continue in his job despite calls for his resignation, including from the opposition Labour leader. He added: “I once again offer a full apology.”
The announcement earlier Tuesday by London’s Metropolitan Police made Mr. Johnson the first holder of his office in living memory to be found in breach of the law, and provoked anger from Britons who obeyed strict coronavirus rules that sometimes even forbade contact with dying relatives.
It also prompted opposition politicians to accuse Mr. Johnson of lying to Parliament by denying that breaches of coronavirus rules occurred in Downing Street or other government buildings. That is dangerous territory for Mr. Johnson because, in Britain, ministers are normally expected to resign if they mislead their fellow lawmakers.
But the announcement came after several weeks in which Mr. Johnson has stabilized his leadership through robust support for Ukraine’s resistance against Russian military aggression, culminating in his surprise weekend visit to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The media’s focus on the war has defused the air of crisis around Downing Street and prompted several internal critics who had made formal demands for a vote of no-confidence in Mr. Johnson to retract them.
One of those, Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said on Tuesday that, with conflict raging in Ukraine, “it wouldn’t be right to remove the prime minister at this time.”
Nonetheless the latest twist in the “partygate” saga is an extraordinary development even for Mr. Johnson who has a reputation for extracting himself from crises of his own making.
In a statement, London’s Metropolitan Police said it would issue fines for at least 50 breaches of the law as part of its inquiry into the “partygate” scandal that, earlier this year, threatened to sweep Mr. Johnson from power after reports emerged of politicians and officials gathering and drinking in Downing Street and other government buildings despite coronavirus rules.
The police did not name any of those to be fined, but the prime minister’s office later said that Mr. Johnson and the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, had both been notified that they had broken the law.