Partygate: What The Police Investigation Means For Sue Gray's Report

Cressida Dick just announced that the police will be looking into "a number" of the alleged Downing Street parties.
The Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick (L) and top civil servant Sue Gray are both investigating the PM's alleged parties
The Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick (L) and top civil servant Sue Gray are both investigating the PM's alleged parties

The Metropolitan Police has just decided it will be launching an investigation into some of the alleged Downing Street parties after all – but how will this affect senior civil servant Sue Gray’s internal investigation?

Gray’s report – expected to be a clear, but not entirely independent, breakdown of the government parties held during lockdown – was ordered by the prime minister, and will be handed to Boris Johnson once complete.

People anticipated that only the summarised findings would be published as well, rather than the complete inquiry.

Still, Gray’s work was expected to be released this week and could have been the turning point for many Tory MPs who are considering supporting the vote of no confidence in the PM.

This has all changed with the news that the Met is now launching its own investigation, too.

Why did the Met decide to launch an investigation now?

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed that the Met will now be investigating a “number” of the alleged parties, even though the first reports of Downing Street gatherings were released in November.

Dick told the London Assembly on Tuesday that the police did not “normally” investigate retrospective breaches of the rules.

She said: “What I can tell you this morning is that as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team, and secondly, my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”

This suggests Gray passed her findings in her internal investigation to the Met.

Previously, the Met said it had no intention of investigating Partygate unless Gray found evidence of criminal activity.

Dick added that the investigations were carried out for the “most serious and flagrant type of breach”, and where there was evidence.

The rule breach has to meet three criteria: those involved knew it was against the rules; not investigating would undermine the law; and there is “little ambiguity” around the absence of a reasonable defence.

The Met’s decision followed new allegations that Johnson attended a surprise birthday party arranged for him in the Cabinet Room of No.10 in June 2020, when indoor gatherings were banned.

When will Sue Gray’s report be released now?

The civil servant’s report will no longer be published this week, but Gray will continue her investigation behind the scenes.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing.

“There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service.”

Gray will not publish her report before the police conclude its investigation. Lawyer Adam Wagner speculated that this was likely to avoid “prejudicing” the Met’s report.

However, there have been reports that the Met did not want delay the release of Gray’s findings, suggesting it was No.10 who chose to hold it back.

What does this mean for the PM?

Well, this ultimately depends on the outcome of the Met’s investigation.

There have been mixed responses on Twitter over whether this could actually work out in the prime minister’s favour in the long run, especially if the police find no evidence of criminal activity.

Political pundits such as ITV’s Paul Brand have suggested that the delay to the Sue Gray report’s publications means any bids to push Johnson from office may lose momentum, giving the prime minister more time to regroup and win back the public.

However, he then tweeted: ’But...there is no way of spinning this as a good day for Boris Johnson.”

The i’s Paul Waugh also claimed that “Boris Johnson may already be damned in the court of public opinion”.

Alternatively, it could encourage Tory MPs who were previously on the fence to finally hand in a letter of no confidence in Johnson before the result of the investigation is even published, according to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

It’s worth noting that Gray’s report is not expected to allocate any blame, but would simply break down the facts of the parties. The same can’t be said for the Metropolitan Police investigation.


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