POLICE will investigate “a number” of Downing Street parties which took place during lockdown, Met chief Dame Cressida Dick has announced.
Boris Johnson’s ‘Partygate’ crisis escalated dramatically today as Scotland Yard finally bowed to enormous pressure to launch a probe in a series of allegations No10 staff broke rules by holding gatherings.
It came just hours after it was revealed that the PM held an indoor birthday bash inside at the height of the first lockdown.
The Met Police Chief today confirmed that her officers will investigate several of the breaches of the rules in No10 and across Whitehall – but wouldn’t say which ones.
Until now chiefs have said they don’t usually look at events which took place a long time ago – but they now think they had enough evidence and reason to believe that people knew they were breaking the law.
Ms Dick told the London Assembly this morning: “As a result of the information provided by the Cabinet office and my officers own assessment, I can confirm 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 breaches of Covid 19 regulations.”
In another dramatic day in Westminster:
- The Cabinet Office today insisted that the Sue Gray investigation – which is expected to conclude this week – is still continuing despite the police probe
- But it’s expected that her final report, which MPs have been anxiously waiting for, will now be delayed until after the cops investigate
- The PM’s top team were locked inside No10 at a cabinet meeting when the news broke
- Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg was first to bat for the PM – telling the waiting cameras outside No10: “I am honoured to be under his leadership” and hailed his “brilliant” decisions
- Labour’s Angela Rayner will ask an urgent question in the Commons about the latest twists and turns in the drama
An insider said: “The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing.
“There is in ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service.”
In a dramatic moment this morning, Ms Dick told politicians when challenged about why police have not investigated so far: “We police without fear or favour.
“We police impartially, we police in an operationally independent manner.
“In general we have not normally investigated breaches of the regulations when they have been reported long after they are said have been taken place.
“It would not normally be a proportionate use of time investigating after the fact.”
She said they would do that only it was “serious and flagrant type of breach” with significant evidence, and when those involved “knew or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence”.
They also only probe when not investigating would have undermined the law, and there was little evidence of a clear defence, she said.
It means fixed penalty notices could be dished out to those who were found to have breached the rules.
The Police said today that the Cabinet Office had “provided outline findings from its inquiry to the MPS” and after “detailed assessments” the Met had decided to open investigations.
A statement from the force said: “Where multiple events occurred on a particular date at a location, all the events on that date will initially fall within the remit of the investigation so that the full circumstances can be established. This does not mean that everyone who attended an event will be investigated.
“The MPS has written to the Cabinet Office this morning with a formal request for it to refer all relevant information gathered from its inquiry in relation to events on the dates in question to support the police investigations.”
Last night the PM became engulfed in a fresh scandal after admitting to an indoor birthday celebration in the first lockdown.
The Prime Minister turned 56 on June 19, 2020, with No10 confirming staff gathered to wish him well in the Cabinet Room when indoor social mixing was banned.
It is claimed his then fiancée Carrie surprised the PM with a cake and led a chorus of Happy Birthday with at least 30 staff members.
A Downing Street insider last night said: “This was a few people who were in the office saying happy birthday, it was not a party.”
ITV News said well-wishers included the interior designer Lulu Lytle, who was at the time in charge of the controversial six-figure revamp of the PM’s flat.
But No10 insisted that the PM was there for “less than ten minutes” after staff had “gathered briefly” after a meeting.
Several other gatherings took place in No10 over the past two years – including a leaving do on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, Christmas bashes, and several other events.
It’s not clear which ones will be looked at by the police.
But Ms Dick did say that some of them did not meet the threshold for an investigation.
The PM has been dogged for weeks over the partygate scandal, which is threatening to overshadow his premiership.
Several MPs have already called for a leadership contest and have submitted letters to Sir Graham Brady.