Two Months On: What's Happening With Met Police Probe Into 'Partygate' Scandal?

© AP Photo / David CliffA police officer stands outside the door of 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022
A police officer stands outside the door of 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.03.2022
In late January, London's Metropolitan Police announced a criminal investigation into allegations of parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns between 2020 and 2021. The investigation came after the police received evidence from a separate inquiry on the alleged parties, conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
As the Metropolitan Police (Met)'s probe into Downing Street "lockdown-busting" parties enters its third month, how much progress has been made?
According to the Daily Mail, Scotland Yard detectives have not yet finished sending out questionnaires to those potentially involved in the parties held between 2020 and 2021 despite the process of delivering the documents having started more than three weeks ago.
No fines have yet been issued by the Metropolitan Police (Met), who are still investigating the matter, the publication said.
The report comes after senior Tory MPs called on the Met to wrap up the "partygate" probe as soon as possible, which they said would allow Prime Minister Boris Johnson to focus on responding to the ongoing Russian military operation in Ukraine.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, for his part, said that "if the PM has made his declaration, unless they've got evidence he's lied, they should clear him". Smith was apparently referring to the prime minister claiming in January that he thought a "bring your own booze" party at 10 Downing Street he attended was a "work event".
According to the ex-Tory leader, "the idea that you'd leave this hanging over a prime minister is absurd. Why haven't they moved more quickly on this?"
"It's not a secret – they know who was there and who was not. The Met is very bureaucratic and everything takes forever. They should just fast-track the whole process – this is ridiculous. If nothing is going to happen to him, he should be told that now. This is simply unfair on him", Smith stated.
The remarks followed a Number 10 spokesperson telling Sky News last month that Johnson had returned a Met questionnaire to Scotland Yard after answering questions about his whereabouts and activities regarding the alleged Downing Street parties.
Although the spokesperson added that Johnson's responses will not be made public, media reports claimed that the PM ostensibly argued in the questionnaire that he attended some of the parties in a work capacity.

Met's 'Partygate' Probe

The Met probe has already seen more than 50 Downing Street insiders contacted over their involvement in the "partygate" scandal. While Scotland Yard earlier stated those individuals will not necessarily be slapped with fines, the Met added that if "officers believe it is appropriate because the COVID regulations have been breached without a reasonable excuse, a fixed penalty notice will normally be issued".
The Scotland Yard investigation follows the publication of the initial findings of senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on the "partygate" allegations, which pointed out that there were "failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office" and that "some of the events should not have been allowed to take place".
The release of the initial findings saw Johnson apologising and reshuffling his senior staff, but making it clear that he intends to "get on" with his job.
In a separate development last month, UK media outlets claimed that more than 100 Conservative MPs will be ready to turn against Johnson if a no-confidence vote against him is triggered. It takes 54 letters of no confidence from Conservative MPs to trigger such a vote. Between 30 and 45 lawmakers are understood to have already sent letters to the chair of the Conservatives' 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.
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