The Papers: PM refuses to quit and Russia plans eastern assault

The Papers: PM refuses to quit and Russia plans eastern assault

By BBC NewsStaffImage caption, News that the prime minister and chancellor have been fined for attending a birthday party for the prime minister at the height of the Covid lockdown dominates the front pages. The Metro reports that 50 people have now received fixed penalty notices and dubs the saga Number Ten’s “Partygate Shame”.Image caption,…

By BBC News
Staff

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News that the prime minister and chancellor have been fined for attending a birthday party for the prime minister at the height of the Covid lockdown dominates the front pages. The Metro reports that 50 people have now received fixed penalty notices and dubs the saga Number Ten’s “Partygate Shame”.

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Boris Johnson has become the first British prime minister to have committed a criminal offence while in office, The Financial Times reports. It says the fines have “reignited concerns over Johnson’s leadership among Tory MPs”, with a former cabinet minister saying the situation was “terminal” for him. The paper also reports that US inflation rose above eight per cent in March, its highest level since 1981.

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“PM refuses to quit”, reads the headline in the i. The paper says that 57 per cent of the public now want to see Mr Johnson resign, adding that, with a police investigation ongoing, he could still face more fines. The paper also reports on what it describes as the “race to find out if Russia has used chemical weapons” in Ukraine

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The Times reports Mr Johnson has “defied calls to quit” but that the chancellor was “on the brink of quitting” on Tuesday, and that he issued an apology only after “more than seven hours of public silence”. It also reports that Russia is attempting to build a force that would outnumber Ukrainian troops five to one for a “decisive battle” in the eastern Donbas region.

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The front page of the Daily Telegraph quotes a statement read by the prime minister after the fines were announced in which he said: “People have the right to expect better”. It also lists a number of Tory MPs who have withdrawn earlier calls for him to resign. It quotes Sir Roger Gale saying that Mr Johnson had “effectively misled” the Commons in his account of what happened, but that it would not be right to unseat him during an “international crisis”.

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Parodying the prime minister’s statement, the headline in the Guardian reads: “I broke my own law but I refuse to go”. The paper says Mr Johnson’s position “remains in peril… as the police are still investigating up to six further gatherings where he is said to have been present”.

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The Mirror says the country is led by “liars and lawbreakers” and describes the number of people in government who have been given fines as “shameful”.

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The prime minister and chancellor appear on the front page of The Star with added Pinocchio noses. The page features quotes from occasions in recent months when the two have denied breaking any lockdown rules and dubs them “lying wazzocks”.

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“I’m sorry ..but I have work to do,” reads the front page of The Sun. The paper reports that, after apologising for breaking lockdown rules, the prime minister “vowed to stay on to focus on Ukraine and the energy crisis”.

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The Express similarly quotes the prime minister’s apology. “I’m sorry, I will do better for Britain,” the headline reads.

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And the Daily Mail criticises those calling for the PM’s resignation, asking: “Don’t they know there’s a war on?” The paper reports that Mr Johnson attended the birthday gathering for nine minutes and that his birthday cake “never left its Tupperware box”. The page also features a picture of Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian city of Maripuol, saying civilians there are being treated with “no mercy”.

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 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.

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