What IS going on with the Met's farcical Partygate probe?
What IS going on with the Met’s farcical Partygate probe? No fines have been dished out and forms are still being sent weeks after PM got his questionnaire
- It is over three weeks since Boris Johnson received a Met Police questionnaire
- Understood that no fines related to Downing Street parties have yet been issued
- Senior Tory MPs have urged the force to conclude the Partygate investigation
- The Prime Minister’s attention has largely been on the response to the war in Ukraine
Scotland Yard detectives have still not finished sending out questionnaires regarding lockdown-busting Downing Street parties – and have not yet issued any fines.
Police were last night urged to speed up their ‘bureaucratic’ investigation amid growing frustration that it has still not concluded.
It is now more than three weeks since Boris Johnson received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police about his attendance at some of the events.
The force has indicated it will announce when all the forms have been sent out to Whitehall staff who may have broken the law on social gatherings during the Covid lockdowns. But it has not yet given an update.
No fines have yet been issued, it is understood.
It is now more than three weeks since Boris Johnson received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police about his attendance at some of the events
Senior Tory MPs last night urged the force to conclude the Partygate investigation and allow Mr Johnson to concentrate on averting nuclear war with Russia.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘If the PM has made his declaration, unless they’ve got evidence he’s lied, they should clear him.
‘The idea that you’d leave this hanging over a prime minister is absurd. Why haven’t they moved more quickly on this?
‘It’s not a secret – they know who was there and who was not. The Met is very bureaucratic and everything takes forever.
‘They should just fast-track the whole process – this is ridiculous. If nothing is going to happen to him, he should be told that now. This is simply unfair on him.’
Downing Street staff have been asked by police to provide a ‘lawful exception’ or ‘reasonable excuse’ for parties which took place during the coronavirus lockdown, a leaked legal questionnaire (pictured) has shown
No 10 confirmed on February 11 that Mr Johnson had received a legal questionnaire from police questioning him over claims that parties that broke Covid rules were held in Downing Street.
He is believed to be the first British prime minister to have completed a form like this under caution over suspicion of breaking the law.
Detectives are investigating 12 events, including as many as six which the Prime Minister is reported to have attended.
It follows allegations of frequent and excessive drinking by Downing Street staff, to the extent where a wine fridge was bought and staff filled suitcases with wine at supermarkets.
Mr Johnson is believed to have attended as many as six of the parties being investigating by the Metropolitan Police. One of the parties under investigation is the ‘bring your own booze’ garden in May 2020 (pictured)
Scotland Yard is understood to be writing to around 50 people who are believed to have attended events that may have broken lockdown rules. Chancellor Rishi Sunak received one of the questionnaires and is believed to have returned it.
The questionnaire advises those completing it that they ‘do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court’.
Mr Johnson has refused to say whether he will resign if he is found to have broken the law and is issued with a fixed penalty notice.
Tory MPs are awaiting the outcome of the police investigation to determine whether or not they will submit letters of no confidence to trigger a vote on his leadership.
Mr Johnson is also believed to be keen to conclude the police investigation and has been telling Cabinet ministers that he cannot wait to tell his side of the story.
One said that the Prime Minister had assured him that he had done nothing wrong and that he wanted the investigation to finish so he could explain what had happened.
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment.
Timeline: The Downing Street parties being probed by the police
Boris Johnson has received a questionnaire from police investigating allegations of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.
The Prime Minister may have attended as many as six events that are being looked into by police, according to reports.
A ‘bring your own booze party’ attended by Mr Johnson during the first Covid lockdown and a gathering to mark his birthday are among 12 parties being investigated.
Further details have since been reported, suggesting the Conservative Party leader was seen heading to a party in his No 11 residence on the night his former senior aide Dominic Cummings departed, and that he briefly attended a leaving do for one of his former defence advisers.
The 12 parties being investigated by the Metropolitan Police are:
– May 20 2020: Bring Your Own Booze party:
A leaked email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds showed No 10 staff were invited to ‘bring your own booze’ to an event in the Downing Street garden.
Mr Johnson has admitted he was there for 25 minutes, but said he thought it was a ‘work event’ to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
– June 18 2020: Cabinet Office leaving do:
Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.
The event had not previously been disclosed but The Telegraph said the official in question is former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.
The newspaper said it understood about 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed.
– June 19 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday:
Downing Street has admitted staff ‘gathered briefly’ in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for the Prime Minister organised by his now wife Carrie.
The PA news agency was told Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.
However, No 10 has denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.
– November 13 2020: Downing Street flat do:
Mrs Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and Mr Johnson live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim ‘total nonsense’.
But reports have since suggested that the Prime Minister was seen heading up to the flat on the night in question, with the Mail On Sunday stating that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, were heard coming from the residence.
Mr Cummings, former de facto chief-of-staff at No 10, has alleged there are photographs of parties held at the flat during lockdown and said he has spoken to people who heard music coming from the Johnsons’ accommodation on the night he exited Downing Street.
– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide:
According to reports at the time, Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Mr Cummings.
– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’:
The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case removed himself from the inquiry into Whitehall parties – to be replaced by Ms Gray – after reports emerged of a gathering in the Cabinet Office.
It was reported the do had been organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, and that it was included in digital calendars as: ‘Christmas party!’ and included an online quiz.
The Cabinet Office said Mr Case played no part in the event ‘but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own’.
– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head:
The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce Kate Josephs said she was ‘truly sorry’ over leaving drinks held in the Cabinet Office.
– December 17 2020: No 10 leaving do:
A leaving do was held for a departing Downing Street official.
The Telegraph reported that the staff member in question is Captain Steve Higham, then one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries, who advised on defence and national security issues.
The Mirror, which first reported the event before the police investigation began, said Mr Johnson was only there ‘for a few minutes’.
Capt Higham became Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in July 2021.
– December 18 2020: Downing Street Christmas party:
Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.
Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton resigned after video emerged of her joking about a ‘fictional party’ at a mock press conference.
– January 14 2021: More Downing Street leaving drinks:
A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.
Reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to The Telegraph.
The other official’s identity is so far unknown.
– April 16 2021: Leaving drinks on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral:
The night before the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband of almost 70 years, in compliance with Covid rules at the time, two leaving dos were reportedly held in No 10.
Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after reported details emerged of boozy drinks parties, including one for outgoing communications director James Slack.
Events not subject to police investigation:
– May 15 2020: Cheese and wine in the No 10 garden:
A photograph emerged of a number of groups gathered in the No 10 garden, including Mr Johnson, Mrs Johnson, Mr Cummings and Mr Reynolds sitting together on the terrace.
– November 27 2020: Another special adviser leaves:
Mr Johnson reportedly gave a leaving speech at a gathering for Cleo Watson, another ally of Mr Cummings.
– December 10 2020: Department for Education Christmas drinks:
Then education secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly threw a party and delivered a short speech at his department’s Whitehall headquarters.
– December 15 2020: An online Christmas quiz in No 10:
The Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens at the quiz but insisted he broke no rules.
Source: Read Full Article