Met admits not sending Boris Johnson questionnaires over Partygate gatherings

Anger over the Partygate scandal has been reignited after Scotland Yard confirmed that it did not send questionnaires to Boris Johnson before deciding against fining him for attending two Downing Street lockdown gatherings.

Ben Quinn 

Fines were issued to other attenders at the gatherings in 2020, including one at No 10 on 13 November, where the prime minister gave a leaving speech for his departing director of communications, Lee Cain, and another in the Cabinet Office on 17 December.

Downing Street has previously briefed that Johnson did not receive police questionnaires relating to some lockdown events. But the revelation on Monday is thought to be the first time the Metropolitan police has admitted this, under details released as part of a legal challenge.

The Good Law Project (GLP), a non-profit campaign group that has brought a judicial review over accusations that the Met failed to fully investigate Johnson’s presence at parties, said: “The Met’s actions have raised grave concerns about the deferential way in which they are policing those in power.

“We don’t think the Met’s response is consistent with their legal duty of candour. And we certainly don’t think it’s consistent with what the Met has elsewhere conceded is their public duty to maintain public confidence in policing.”

The group is taking action in concert with Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat peer and former senior police officer.

In a document summarising the Met’s response to the challenge, released by the GLP, the force said it could confirm no questionnaire was sent to Johnson for the two 2020 gatherings. It confirmed it sent one in relation to a gathering held on 14 January 2021.

Johnson received a single £50 fine in April for breaking Covid laws at a birthday party thrown for him in June 2020.

In its response to the GLP, Scotland Yard said investigating officers had examined hundreds of documents including emails, diary entries, witness statements and CCTV images.

Questionnaires were a useful part of the investigation, but if answers were clear from other evidence, “there was little to be gained” from sending one to a particular person simply for them to confirm what was already known, and there was no duty to send one, it was said.

The Met said Operation Hillman, the probe into Partygate, had concluded and that it would not comment on the steps taken in the course of the investigation.

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There was an angry reaction from former officials embroiled in the police inquiry, included one who pointed out that Rishi Sunak received a fixed-penalty notice for his presence at the end of Johnson’s birthday party, which the then chancellor was said to have wandered into as he prepared for another meeting.

Jo Maugham, director of the GLP, said: “Johnson isn’t going to be prime minister for much longer. But, for me, this continues to be about what it was always about: trust in policing and the rule of law. Seventy-two per cent of voters think there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Why won’t the Met address that perception? Why won’t they just say what happened?”

No 10 declined to comment, referring queries to Scotland Yard.

Media hysteria, the Tory Panto and Liz’s “Best Bits”. A Correspondent writes

Dear Owl

I really do resent having to suffer media hysteria about the Tory leadership panto from now until September. What’s the point – it’s nothing to do with me or anyone I know. It just bigs up the 160,000 Tory party faithful who will choose one or other right wing ideologue to be the next Prime Minister that all the rest of us have to endure. These voters represent 0.25% (a quarter of one per cent) of the population. Most of these people (79% of them) are still convinced that Brexit was a success – which alone tells you what sort of grasp of reality prevails among them. There are even some – the walking dead of their number – who want Boris back on the ballot form with Truss and Sunac as the ultimate continuity candidate. It’s barking mad that these people will decide who runs this country. And now we must contemplate endless baloney from the Tory press about how significant it is – all of it confected to represent yet more of the same desperately inadequate government as “A New Beginning”. It’s worth at least a minute’s silence, is it not, for “The Will Of The People”… 

Sunac makes fewer gaffes than Truss, and is probably less of a public idiot, but as there’s no need for ‘balance’, I hope all food banks will play this clip on a loop to amuse those queuing for rapidly diminishing resources. The cheese gag will absolutely split their sides.  For all of them it’s only bread and circuses on offer, and probably without the bread.