Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Met Police launch new Partygate investigation into Downing Street and Chequers gatherings

Officers investigating new evidence including video of ‘Jingle and Mingle’ Christmas party at Tory headquarters

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Monday 19 June 2023 18:01 BST
Privileges Committee finds Boris Johnson misled Parliament

The Metropolitan Police has launched a new investigation into alleged breaches of Covid laws at Downing Street, Chequers, parliament and the Conservative Party headquarters.

The probe includes more gatherings attended by Boris Johnson while he was prime minister, and a Christmas party where Tory staffers were invited to “jingle and mingle”.

Scotland Yard announced that it was “assessing information and new material” over events in 2020 and 2021 on Monday, which was Mr Johnson’s birthday.

Its previous Partygate investigation saw 83 people, including the former prime minister and his successor Rishi Sunak, given a total of 126 fines.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “A number of other events have subsequently been referred to us which we are in the process of assessing.”

The announcement came hours before MPs were due to debate a report finding Mr Johnson had misled parliament over Covid breaches, which would have seen him suspended from parliament had he not resigned.

Senior Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant, chairman of parliament’s committee on standards and privileges, said the “chickens are coming home to roost” for the Conservatives.

Responding to the Met’s announcement, he told The Independent: “It feels like justice takes a long time to turn the bend. Finally, chickens are coming home to roost.”

Police are assessing material passed by the Cabinet Office “regarding potential breaches of the regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street and Chequers”.

The evidence is understood to have come from official diary entries that were being reviewed ahead of the Covid public inquiry, and were passed to police in May in a move attacked by Mr Johnson’s allies.

At the time, a statement from the former prime minister’s office said his lawyers had written to police to “explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions”.

Boris Johnson resigns as an MP

The Metropolitan Police said it was also assessing media reporting of “alleged breaches in parliament” and looking at previously unseen footage of a Christmas gathering at the Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters on 14 December 2020.

A video published by The Mirror showed staff dancing and joking about Covid restrictions, with one attendee heard saying: “As long as we don’t stream that we’re, like, bending the rules.”

A dancing man and woman crashed into a buffet table stacked with food and wine glasses at one point, while other guests walk past wearing paper crowns and clutching alcoholic drinks.

An invitation to the event obtained by BBC News read: “JINGLE AND MINGLE: Save the date – Monday December 14th at 6pm for the Shaun Bailey for London holiday party.”

Scotland Yard initially launched an investigation after the Daily Mirror published a picture of the gathering, but concluded that the photo by itself was not sufficient evidence to find an offence had been committed.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) said “formal disciplinary action” was taken against four staff members, who were seconded to the London mayoral campaign of Mr Bailey, over the “unauthorised” event.

The failed candidate – who was handed a peerage by Mr Johnson in his controversial resignation honours list – has previously apologised for the event. Tory aide Ben Mallet, who was awarded an OBE on the list, is also visible in the video.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley suggested that action would now be taken on the event, and said it was originally investigated on the basis of a photo.

“It’s very obvious a video tells a much richer, clearer story,” he told the News Agents podcast.

The ‘jingle and mingle’ invite

“I think we can all see the colourful nature of the video and how much it tells a story way beyond the original photo. I need to let a team work through that but I think we can all guess which way it will go.”

Sir Mark said that retrospective allegations of Covid breaches were not investigated in general, but that in cases where “those involved were setting the law and setting the policy [it is] an aggravating feature”.

The commissioner said any evidence previously received about the CCHQ gathering would be looked at to see if the video “correlates with what people told us”.

“It’s possible we’ll issue questionnaires again if we think the initial facts justify that degree of investigation,” he added. “We’re following the law and we’re operating without fear or favour.”

The emergence of the “jingle and mingle” invite led to fresh calls for Mr Mallet and Mr Bailey to give up the honours.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said bereaved families across the country would be “appalled to see the latest evidence” of rule-breaking by the Conservatives.

“While the Conservatives ‘jingled and mingled’, the British public followed the rules and did the right thing,” she said.

Fines have already been issued to more than 80 people following the initial Partygate investigation

“Sunak should personally intervene and urge those implicated to give up their honours.”

But Downing Street later said there were “no plans” to remove honours from those at the CCHQ party, with the prime minister’s official spokesman saying he had “followed the process” on resignation honours, and a forfeiture committee could consider cases of serious wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Our approach to the assessment of these allegations has been consistent throughout, enforcing the law carefully, thoroughly, proportionately, impartially and without fear or favour.

“We have previously published our criteria for assessing when to launch investigations into retrospective breaches of the regulations.

“We will do so when there is evidence of a serious and flagrant breach and where it is proportionate and there was evidence that those involved knew or ought to have known what they were doing was an offence.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in