Suffolk families' anger over PM's Covid lockdown fine

Johnson and Sunak

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have both received fixed penalty notices from the Metropolitan Police - Credit: PA

Relations of two Suffolk victims of the Covid pandemic have spoken of their anger and frustration at the news that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were receiving fixed penalty notices for lockdown breaches in 2020.

Helen Brooks from Stowmarket died on New Year's Eve 2020 after contracting Covid in hospital after being admitted suffering from an infection. She was just 66 years old.

Helen Brooks.

Helen Brooks died on New Year's Eve 2020. - Credit: Brooks family

Her daughter Helena Nunn said because Mrs Brooks had suffered from cancer and was considered vulnerable it had not been possible for the family to see her before she was taken to hospital.

She said: "I wasn't able to take my children to see their grandmother because she was shielding - but now we have heard about these parties. It doesn't seem right.

"They (the Prime Minister and Chancellor) were the ones making the rules but they were then not following them. I really don't see how they can carry on.

"After mum died we could only have six people at her funeral but the people making the rules weren't sticking by them."

She said she and the family had got on with their lives but the news about the parties had saddened them.

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Chris Bailey's 73-year-old grandmother Margaret Bennett lived in the Whitehouse area of Ipswich and also died in December 2020 as many of the lockdown parties being investigated by the police were taking place.

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett with her husband Tony who died in 2019. - Credit: Chris Bailey

Mr Bailey had no doubt what she would have thought about this: "My Nan would not have been impressed!" He said.

"I didn't think he (Boris Johnson) was fit to be Prime Minister anyway, but I can't see how he can stay after this. He was making the rules and breaking them as well. He should go."

However, whatever he thought about the Prime Minister and Chancellor was mild compared to his grandmother's views: "She would know exactly what to say and would have some really strong words for him!"

Mr Johnson's fixed penalty notice was for a birthday party that was held in No 10 Downing Street in June 2020 at a time when people were not allowed to gather indoors for a social event.

He and some staff are understood to have shared a cake in the Cabinet Room and officials said he was present for no more than 10 minutes.

His wife Carrie also received a fixed penalty notice.

Speaking at Chequers, the Prime Minister said: “Today I’ve received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police relating to an event in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

“And let me say immediately that I’ve paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology and in the spirit of openness and humility I want to be completely clear about what happened on that date.

“My day began shortly after 7am and I chaired eight meetings in Number 10, including the cabinet committee deciding Covid strategy.

“I visited a school in Hemel Hempstead, which took me out of Downing Street for over four hours and amongst all these engagements on a day that happened to be my birthday, there was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting for less than 10 minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes.

“And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.”

A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson said: “Mrs Johnson has paid a fixed penalty notice relating to a gathering on the afternoon of 19 June 2020. Whilst she believed that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time, Mrs Johnson accepts the Metropolitan Police’s findings and apologises unreservedly.”

It is understood Mrs Johnson briefly attended the Cabinet Room with her newborn baby in her arms during her husband’s lunch break alongside some socially distanced staff and that because the fixed penalty notice was settled within 14 days, it was a reduced rate of £50.

We tried to contact all Suffolk MPs to get their views on the news about the fixed penalty notices - but all were unavailable or did not respond to our phone calls.

Local opposition councillors have been quick to follow their party leaderships to call for the PM's resignation.

There have been calls for Parliament to be recalled because of the fines - but many MPs are away and would not be able to return quickly and it is due to resume next Tuesday at which point MPs should be able to have a say on today's news.