Downing Street has denied speaking to the Metropolitan Police force about the Sue Gray report which faces further delays following police intervention.
The Metropolitan Police has told Sue Gray’s inquiry into illegal lockdown parties in Downing Street that its report can only make “minimal reference” to events that the police are investigating – further delaying publication of a report that may end Boris Johnson’s political career.
Gray’s long awaited report is said to be “scathing of Downing Street’s partying culture” and an investigation by police suggests her inquiry has uncovered evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence.
Number 10 said it had not asked Gray to get her report cleared by the Met Police and denied any involvement in today’s (January 28) announcement by the force.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “[W]e haven’t been privy to the details of that investigation or any of its content. So that would be a matter for the investigations team and the Met.”
Police intervention is ‘absolute nonsense’ says former chief prosecutor
Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced its investigation into allegations of multiple illegal lockdown parties around Whitehall and Downing Street three days ago (on January 25), following discussions with the Gray inquiry. On Friday, the Met told the Cabinet Office to remove certain parts of the Gray report in order to avoid prejudicing the police investigation.
Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal called the Met’s move “absolute nonsense”, tweeting: “A purely factual report by Sue Gray cannot possibly prejudice a police investigation.”
Virtually all lockdown breaches are dealt with by fines and court cases are heard by magistrates, meaning there is no jury that can be influenced by Gray’s report.
The Telegraph calls the police intervention a “bombshell” and said “the Met is happy for the public to read about” events that did not break the rules, but not about events that they are investigating.
“It is unclear why the police has changed its mind but there will inevitably be suspicions of meddling at the highest level,” states the Telegraph article.
Gray report delay is paralysing government, says Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “the whole of government” has been paralysed by the ‘partygate’ row and by the delay in publishing the Gray report.
“Our country faces huge challenges and it’s offensive that the Government’s sole focus is on cleaning up after themselves. Britain deserves better. The Prime Minister is unfit for office and must resign,” tweeted Starmer.
“He’s been briefed the reports [sic] a disaster, it finishes him off, he’s not willing to let go, he’s doing everything he can to kick it down the road and stay in power”, tweeted Gary Neville, the businessman and former England and Manchester United footballer, who recently joined Labour, fuelling speculation about a future prominent role in the party.
“I never thought our country could be as bad as it is right now,” posted Neville.
Theresa May warns ‘nobody is above the law’
Meanwhile, Johnson’s immediate predecessor in Number 10, Theresa May, has warned that “nobody is above the law”, as she expressed anger in her first comments about the controversies engulfing Downing Street.
May has been a critic of the PM since moving to the backbenches yet has remained silent over “partygate”. Until now.
In a letter to the Maidenhead Advertiser, May’s local newspaper, the former-PM wrote: “It is vital that those who set the rules, follow the rules … This is important for ensuring the necessary degree of trust between the public and government.
“Like so many, I was angry to hear stories of those in No 10, who are responsible for setting the coronavirus rules, not properly following the rules. All those working at the heart of government should conduct themselves with the highest of standards which befits the work they do, and this applies as much to those working in No 10 as to other parts of government.”
The Guardian points out that the letter was sent before the Met Police investigation was announced.