Police have been urged to reopen an investigation into the Partygate scandal after fresh allegations surfaced concerning the approach of Downing Street staff to questioning over the lockdown-breaking events that rocked Boris Johnson’s government.
The deputy chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee wrote to Sir Mark Rowley, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to urge him to launch a new probe in the light of explosive new claims.
It has been alleged that Downing Street staff corroborated their stories before filling out the Met’s questionnaires about their involvement in lockdown parties, and that No 10 officials destroyed evidence before the force and a separate Cabinet Office inquiry by Sue Gray could investigate.
Whistleblowers made the claims in ITV’s Partygate: The Inside Story podcast, where it was also alleged that Mr Johnson joked to Downing Street staff that “this is the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now” while attending leaving drinks in No 10.
In a letter to Sir Mark, Unmesh Desai, deputy chair of the committee that scrutinises the London mayor’s office for policing, which in turn oversees the Met, wrote: “You will no doubt be aware of the new evidence that directly contradicts the former prime minister’s claim that he was not aware of any rule breaking at 10 Downing Street.
He referred directly to the claims of staff destroying evidence and corroborating stories.
The Met closed its investigation into Downing Street parties last May after giving 126 fines to 83 people for breaching Covid laws at events on eight different dates including Mr Johnson and then-chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Police told Mr Johnson he faced no further action other than a £50 fixed penalty notice that he had received the previous month over his birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020.
In his letter, Mr Desai adds: “I have raised the apparent inconsistency in how the [Metropolitan Police Service] have approached the investigation with your predecessors – particularly regarding why the former prime minister was issued with only one fixed penalty notice for his birthday party, but not for the other events, including the leaving drinks where there is photographic evidence of him holding a glass of champagne and making a toast.”
The former prime minister is due to give evidence next month to parliament’s privileges committee, which will rule on whether he misled MPs about his knowledge of the events. He repeatedly told the Commons there were no rule-breaking parties in Downing Street, and that the rules had been followed at all times.
In an interview last week with former cabinet ally Nadine Dorries, Mr Johnson said people who suspect he knowingly broke the rules or was involved in any cover-up as “out of their minds”.