Met Police to reopen ‘partygate’ probe into 2020 Christmas event

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The Metropolitan Police has announced it is opening new investigations into two potential Covid-19 lockdown breaches at two parties held by politicians from the ruling Conservative party.

The announcement marks a fresh twist in Britain’s “partygate” scandal, which led to 126 fines after the police discovered evidence of parties in Downing Street at a time when the public had been ordered to stay at home during the worst pandemic in living memory.

The Met said it would re-investigate one party at the headquarters of the Conservative party in Westminster involving the campaign team from Shaun Bailey’s unsuccessful 2021 bid to become London mayor.

The police said they had already looked into allegations about the event held on December 14, 2020, at which point no fines were issued.

Since then, however, a newly released video has shown Bailey’s team partying and dancing at the event on that day. Attendees were invited to a “jingle and mingle” gathering beforehand.

“The receipt of video evidence has resulted in the Met revisiting and updating the assessment,” the police said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Conservatives said the party had already taken formal disciplinary action against four staff from CCHQ — the Tory party head office — who had been seconded to the Bailey campaign. Bailey has previously apologised “unreservedly” after the video came to light.

Bailey was given a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours. Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, on Tuesday called on prime minister Rishi Sunak to stop Bailey taking his seat in the House of Lords while the investigation takes place.

The Met also said it was also opening an investigation into potential breaches of the regulations at an event on December 8, 2020, when the capital city was under Tier 2 Covid restrictions.

On that day there was a birthday party held for Baroness Jenkin, wife of senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin. Bernard Jenkin has not denied being in the room but one ally has insisted that it was a work event where he only “arrived to collect his wife” briefly.

Jenkin was a member of the privileges committee which recently concluded that Johnson had lied to the House of Commons when the former prime minister claimed not to have known that illegal parties had been occurring in Number 10 during his premiership. It found Johnson guilty of multiple contempts of parliament.

Meanwhile the Met and Thames Valley police said they had decided not to open an investigation into new claims of rule-breaking parties at both Downing Street and Chequers — the official prime ministerial country residence in Buckinghamshire — between June 2020 and May 2021.

The police had examined those claims after material in Johnson’s official diaries came to light as part of his witness statement to the official Covid inquiry. The two police forces said that the incidents “do not meet the retrospective criteria for opening an investigation”.


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