Is the search now on for the mole who leaked the video, and which will attract more effort: mole or the party? – Owl
The Metropolitan Police has said it will not be opening an investigation into allegations Downing Street staff broke coronavirus rules with a Christmas party last year, as Boris Johnson apologised and a senior aide was forced to quit over the scandal.
Sam Corbishley metro.co.uk
Scotland Yard said officers will not ‘commence an investigation at this time’ in line with its ‘policy not to investigate retrospective breaches’ of coronavirus rules despite reviewing the allegations and leaked footage showing senior No 10 staff joking about a party.
But the force added that it was open to considering any further evidence unearthed in an internal investigation the Prime Minister was forced to task Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with undertaking as he claimed to be ‘furious’ about the video.
Amid mounting public anger Allegra Stratton, who was the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman, resigned as a Government adviser after video emerged of her and other aides ‘seeming to make light of lockdown measures’ just days after the gathering in No 10.
A Met statement acknowledged it had received ‘a significant amount of correspondence’ relating to the alleged breaches in the run up to Christmas last year but said they do not ‘provide evidence of a breach’ of Covid rules.
It added: ‘Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time.
‘The Met has had discussions with the Cabinet Office in relation to the investigation by the Cabinet Secretary. If any evidence is found as a result of that investigation, it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.’
Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted that rules were followed in Downing Street since the claims first emerged about the December 18 party.
However, at Prime Minister’s Questions, he told the Commons he based that position on assurances from junior staff as he offered an apology.
He asked Mr Case ‘to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible – and it goes without saying that if those rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved’.
His decision to launch an investigation followed a week of official denials that the party took place when London was under Tier 3 restrictions – despite reports staff drank alcohol and exchanged Secret Santa gifts.
Downing Street’s official line has now shifted with the announcement of the Case inquiry, with the Prime Minister’s press secretary declining to repeat the statement that ‘there was no party’.
She said ‘it wouldn’t be right to comment further’ while Mr Case was investigating.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s apology ‘raises more questions than answers’ as he had been ‘caught red-handed’.
He asked Mr Johnson: ‘Millions of people now think the Prime Minister was taking them for fools, that they were lied to. They are right aren’t they?’
In response to questioning from Sir Keir, the Prime Minister agreed that any evidence uncovered by the Cabinet Secretary about parties in Downing Street would be handed over to police.