Why did Boris Johnson avoid Covid fine?

Boris Johnson had hoped he could put partygate behind him. After some months studying the evidence, the Metropolitan Police issued the Prime Minister with one fine – for his “birthday party” in Downing Street. 

Yet the emergence of new pictures puts Scotland Yard under pressure to explain why he was not also fined for attending a No 10 gathering at which he raised a toast with colleagues. 

In a series of images, Mr Johnson can be seen holding a glass of fizz with a group of people at a leaving party for Lee Cain, his former director of communications. 

It was held on November 13 2020, during the second lockdown, and leaves Mr Johnson with fresh questions over whether he misled Parliament. 

Crime correspondent Martin Evans says the Met is facing calls to explain how its investigation was conducted. 

The partygate report by Sue Gray could be published as soon as today. Last night, it was reported that Mr Johnson had urged the senior civil servant to drop plans to publish her findings. Our profile of Ms Gray says she has proved to be no pushover.

Whatever the law and the police interpretation of it, the reality is the photographs are not a good look for a prime minister who had just plunged the country into the strictest of Covid lockdowns. 

Robert Mendick, our chief reporter, was offered a series of suggestions by No 10 sources for why Mr Johnson had escaped a damaging fixed penalty notice on this occasion – dubbed fizzgate. 

If you are finding it hard to keep up with the parties, remind yourself of the chronology with our timeline of all the government gatherings during lockdown (that we know about) and what Covid rules were in force at the time.

Windfall tax could be handed straight out in cheques

The windfall tax on oil and gas giants being prepared by the Treasury could be spent partly on higher benefits payments for more than five million of the poorest Britons. 

One of the proposals being scrutinised to help with the cost of living is to increase Universal Credit before it is next due to be lifted. 

Another would involve the Treasury agreeing to send cheques worth hundreds of pounds to help the poorest, with further jumps in energy bills expected in the autumn.

Political editor Ben Riley-Smith explains the two policy ideas being weighed up as Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak consider the best way to provide financial support as inflation soars but growth stutters. 

Associate editor Camilla Tominey says the decision is proving far from a breeze for Mr Johnson – not least as it is a key Labour policy that Tory MPs voted down only last week.