The Metropolitan Police have announced they have completed their investigation into the ‘Partygate’ scandal at Downing Street for breaking the rules during the Covid-19 lockdown, handing out a total of 126 fines at eight behind-closed-doors events in Westminster.
Boris Johnson, his chancellor Rishi Sunak and his wife Carrie Johnson were among a group of government officials who have been handed fixed fines for breaking their own rules to throw parties during the pandemic, but no further fines before the investigation was completed received.
Both the Prime Minister and Chancellor apologized and paid their fines, with Mr Johnson saying: “To be honest it didn’t occur to me at the time that that could have been a breach of the rules. Of course, the police found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”
But he repeatedly dismissed widespread calls for his resignation, saying: “I believe it’s my job to move forward and work for the people of this country. I will do that.”
The scandal was blown out of the headlines by the outbreak of the Ukraine war and the cost-of-living crisis over the past three months, but it was most recently at its peak when senior civil servant Sue Gray gave her account of the affair to the prime minister in late January.
In a 12-page “update” only to “Partygate”, Ms Gray blasted “failures of leadership and judgment” at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office and described the behavior of some staff members as “difficult to justify”.
In a scathing comment on culture at No 10, led by Mr Johnson, the senior official wrote: “Some of the assemblies in question represent a serious failure not only to uphold the high standards expected of those who are at the heart of government work, but also the standards that were expected of the whole British population at the time.”
Her report also revealed that Mr Johnson’s birthday party was among the dozen gatherings being investigated by Scotland Yard, as was an alleged party at the Prime Minister’s private home.
Ms Johnson reportedly helped organize the surprise event for him in Downing Street’s Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020, with attendees handing out a cake and singing “Happy Birthday”.
The Covid laws of the time meant large social gatherings were banned unless they were between connected households.
An alleged party at the PM’s private home in November 2020 has also been confirmed as part of the investigation, alongside several farewell parties and Christmas parties.
Ms Gray wrote: “It is not for me to judge whether any criminal law has been broken; that’s actually a matter for law enforcement.
“In line with my job, I have been in regular contact with the Metropolitan Police throughout my job to enable them to make decisions about the assemblies being investigated, including whether to open their own investigations.”
The “update” was issued in redacted form due to the ongoing investigation, with Ms Gray saying she was unable at this time to provide the “comprehensive factual information” on the events being handled by police.
Scotland Yard was investigating the May 20, 2020 gathering in Downing Street garden, where a leaked email showed staff had been invited to “bring your own alcohol”.
But police did not look at a gathering that took place five days earlier, where a photo showed wine and cheese being consumed by the prime minister, his wife and other attendees.
Officials were investigating a gathering held at the Cabinet Office on June 18, 2020 to mark the departure of a private secretary from Downing Street and Mr Johnson’s birthday party the following day.
Two gatherings on November 13, 2020 were also under police investigation – an alleged party at the Prime Minister’s home and a separate gathering at Downing Street to mark the departure of a special adviser. England was in lockdown at the time.
However, Scotland Yard declined to investigate the exit meeting of a Downing Street special adviser, at which the Prime Minister made a speech on 27 November 2020, or an Education Department Christmas meeting on 10 December 2020.
The force also ruled out Downing Street’s festive quiz on 15 December 2020, but watched a Cabinet Office Christmas quiz held two days later.
Police were investigating two other celebrations on December 17, 2020, which were separate resignations for Cabinet and Downing Street officials.
The alleged Christmas party at Downing Street on December 18, 2020 has been investigated by police, as has a gathering for two number 10 private secretaries on January 14 last year.
Two celebrations held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral – April 16 – for then Downing Street communications director James Slack and Mr Johnson’s personal photographer were also part of the Scotland Yard inquiry.
Attendees reportedly danced to music, and at one point a staff member was sent to a local Co-op supermarket with a suitcase, which they filled with bottles of wine.
The report said that police decided not to investigate gatherings for four days, as they were deemed to have “not reached the threshold for criminal investigation”.
“No conclusions should be drawn or conclusions drawn from it, other than that it is now up to the police to review the relevant material relating to these incidents,” she added.
“Police have also said that in itself this does not mean they will decide to take further action or that there has necessarily been a violation of the rules.”
The Metropolitan Police duly contacted people suspected of breaching Covid restrictions and asked if they had a “reasonable excuse” for the gathering.
If they did not, she had the power to issue fines of between £100 and £10,000, depending on the law in force at the time, the size of the event and the person’s role.
The events investigated by the police were:
May 20, 2020
– In the garden at No. 10 Downing Street for No. 10 staff
June 18, 2020
– In the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, to mark the departure of a Private Secretary No. 10
June 19, 2020
– In the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street on the Prime Minister’s birthday
November 13, 2020
– In flat number 10 Downing Street
– At 10 Downing Street on the departure of a Special Counsel
December 17, 2020
– At the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, for an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office
– At the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, to mark the departure of a senior Cabinet Office official
– At No. 10 Downing Street regarding the departure of a No. 10 officer
December 18, 2020
– At 10 Downing Street before the Christmas holidays
January 14, 2021
– At No. 10 Downing Street on the departure of two No. 10 private secretaries
April 16, 2021
– At No 10 Downing Street regarding the departure of a senior No 10 official
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-fines-partygate-police-sue-gray-report-b2085948.html Which parties did Boris Johnson attend before the police investigation?