Boris Johnson promises to cooperate with police over ‘partygate’ probe

Published January 26, 2022
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday. — AFP
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking to MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday. — AFP

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed to cooperate with police in any formal probe into coronavirus lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street, which has deepened the threat to his position.

“I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will give the public the clarity it needs and help draw a line under the matter,” he told parliament.

Allegations that a string of parties were held at Downing Street while the rest of the country abided by the rules have shaken Johnson’s government, prompting the worst crisis of his premiership and calls for him to quit.

London’s Metropolitan Police have faced widespread criticism for refusing to investigate a steady drip of allegations over the last two years.

But Met commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed to the London Assembly that had now changed, raising the prospect of formal interviews and potentially criminal sanctions.

But she told the local authority: “The fact that we are now investigating does not of course mean that fixed penalty notices (fines) will necessarily be issued in every instance to every person involved.” If questioned, Johnson would be only the second sitting British prime minister to be quizzed as part of a formal police probe.

Labour prime minister Tony Blair was interviewed as a witness in a police investigation into “cash for honours” allegations. Police announced in 2007 that no charges would be brought.

A senior civil servant, Sue Gray, has already begun conducting an investigation into the “partygate” claims and is expected to publish her conclusions in the coming days.

Johnson’s spokesman said her fact-finding work not related to the police investigation would continue.

“They (Gray and her team) won’t publish anything that relates to the work of the police,” he said, adding that Johnson “does not” think he broke the law during lockdown.

Internal probe

Gray’s investigation is understood to include claims revealed on Monday night that Johnson broke lockdown rules by having a birthday party at Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

Up to 30 people were present, ITV News alleged. At the time, social gatherings were only permitted between six people outside.

Johnson — Britain’s populist Brexit architect — has faced public outrage and charges of hypocrisy over the parties, given that millions of people abided by the rules he set.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2022

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