Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Tuesday; that the police will investigate alleged parties held at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street offices due to an apparent breach of Covid-19 rules.
It comes shortly after the latest disclosure; that an event was held during lockdown to celebrate Johnson’s birthday on June 19, 2020.
The London police chief said that while the force did not typically investigate lockdown breaches long after the event; the decision to open an investigation followed evidence provided by the Cabinet Office.
“What I can tell you this morning is that as a result firstly of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and secondly my officers’ own assessment; I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations,” Dick said Tuesday.
Several other events that appeared to have taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall were deemed not to have reached the threshold for a criminal investigation based on the information available, Dick said.
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Johnson has so far resisted calls to resign from across the political spectrum; despite public anger over a long and growing list of alleged lockdown breaches.
Dick acknowledged “deep public concern” about allegations of lockdown parties in breach of the government’s own Covid guidelines.
The investigation marks an about-turn for the Met; which had previously faced sharp criticism for dismissing calls to look into the claims.
“Throughout the pandemic the Met has sought; as I have said, to take a proportionate approach. I should stress the fact that the Met is investigating does not mean that fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved,” Dick said.
“We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations; but I can assure you that we will give updates at significant points as we would normally do.”
Gray report to be delayed
Senior civil servant Sue Gray had been expected to publish the results of her own investigation into the “partygate” scandal in the coming days.
However, the Met’s investigation will now mean Gray’s report is to be shelved.
That’s according to the terms of reference of the Gray investigation; which states: “As with all internal investigations, if during the course of the work any evidence emerges of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused.”
Sterling dipped 0.1% lower on Tuesday.
The British currency stood at $1.3467 shortly after 2 p.m. London time; near a three-week low of $1.3441.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Europe at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy; said the news of the Met investigation was “likely all becoming too much” for Conservative lawmakers already frustrated with the prime minister’s leadership.
He also suggested Johnson’s departure could now happen before local elections in May.
“Many had been awaiting the outcome of [Sue Gray’s report] before deciding whether to send in letters demanding a vote of confidence in Johnson,” Rahman said.
“This new delay is likely to push the patience of many — and encourage some to now hand in letters to Sir Graham Brady; chairman of the 1922 committee, demanding a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister.”
Rahman added: “With events moving fast, Johnson’s departure could now happen before the local elections in May; though bad Tory results could prove a tipping point if he survives until then.”
In the event of a vote of lost confidence, Rahman said Johnson would presumably hold the reins; while the party chose a successor or deputy prime minister Dominic Raab could take over for a short time.