Police will investigate claims that parties were held in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns.
The British government has been rocked by allegations of parties - most recently a birthday celebration for Prime Minister Boris Johnson - while Britain was in various stages of lockdown to prevent the transmission of COVID.
Speaking to the London Assembly on Tuesday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “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.”
She said the investigation was launched “as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and, secondly, my officers’ own assessment.”
The Cabinet Office inquiry is being led by Sue Gray, who has been compiling evidence of alleged rule breaking at Downing Street. So far, there have been 16 alleged get-togethers.
The news will come as a blow to Johnson. The Prime Minister is hanging by a thread as he faces calls to resign over claims that a number of parties were held in Downing Street and other government and Conservative party buildings during coronavirus lockdowns. During the height of COVID restrictions, the British public were instructed to limit social contact and stay at home in order to slow the spread of the pandemic – and faced fines if they failed to comply.
The Met had previously said it would not be investigating the parties, saying police “do not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place”.
On Monday ITV reported that a birthday party was thrown for Johnson in the Cabinet Room with up to 30 people and cake in June 2020 during the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown. Johnson’s wife Carrie Johnson and Lulu Lytle, an interior designer who was hired for the controversial redesign of the Johsnons’ Downing Street apartment, reportedly gave the Prime Minister cake and led a chorus of “Happy Birthday”.
The gathering is said to have lasted up to 30 minutes. Downing Street says Johnson attended for 10 minutes.
Rebels from his Conservative party have so far struggled to meet the threshold of 54 MPs declaring they have no confidence in Johnson.
However, news of the police investigation and the outcome of Gray’s report could change this.
Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, welcomed the investigation and renewed her call for Johnson to resign.
"We welcome this investigation by the Metropolitan police," she said.
"With Boris Johnson's Downing Street now under police investigation, how on earth can he think he can stay on as Prime Minister?"