British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed to cooperate with police in any formal investigation into the coronavirus lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street that have deepened the threat to his position.
“I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe it will give the public the clarity it needs and help draw a line under the matter,” he told Parliament.
Allegations that a string of parties were held in Downing Street while the rest of the country abided by the rules shook Johnson’s government, causing the worst crisis of his premiership and asking him to leave.
London’s Metropolitan Police has faced widespread criticism over the past two years for consistently refusing to investigate the allegations.
But Met commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed to the London Assembly that had now changed, raising the prospect of formal interviews and possible criminal sanctions.
But she told the local authority: “The fact that we are now investigating, does not mean that a fixed penalty notice (fine) will be issued to every person involved in every case.”
If questioned, Johnson would be only the second current British Prime Minister to be questioned under a formal police investigation.
Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair was interviewed as a witness in the police investigation into the “cash for honour” allegations. Police announced in 2007 that no charges would be filed.
A senior civil servant, Sue Grey, has already begun an investigation into the “partygate” claims and is expected to publish her findings in the coming days.
Johnson’s spokesman said his fact-finding work related to the police investigation would continue.
“They (Gray and his team) will not publish anything related to police work,” he said, adding that Johnson “does not” think he broke the law during the lockdown.
Gray’s investigation is understood to include claims that surfaced on Monday night that Johnson broke lockdown rules by having a birthday party in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.
ITV News alleged that 30 people were present. At that time, only social gatherings between six people were allowed outside.
Johnson – Britain’s populist Brexit architect – faced public outcry and accusations of hypocrisy at the parties, noting that millions of people followed the rules set by him.
Many highlighted how they found themselves missing important birthdays due to social distancing, and were unable to comfort the sick and dying loved ones who had been hit with Covid.
A tweet by Johnson resurfaced from March 2020 in which he told a seven-year-old that she was setting “a great example for all of us” after she canceled her birthday party.
London’s Labor Party Mayor Sadiq Khan has welcomed the police investigation.
“Members of the public should be able to expect the highest standards from everyone, including the prime minister and those around him,” he said.
“No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the government and another for everyone else.”
Dick declined to give a time frame for the investigation or to say whether the Met would be taking witness statements from the police stationed on Downing Street.
She also declined to say whether police would examine security camera footage from Downing Street, where Johnson has both his office and residence.
Johnson’s supporters in his Conservative Party have downplayed the latest revelations and threats to his position, just two years after a massive election victory.
Instead, they point to its success in Britain’s exit from the European Union and its work in securing a vaccine to combat COVID-19.
But Jonathan Evans, head of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said recent claims of government corruption and cronyism have the potential to undermine public trust.
He warned that there would be a “political price to be paid” if ministers and public servants ignored expectations of people’s behaviour.
“People care about it and they expect the people who are representing them … to uphold high standards and put the public’s interests first rather than their own personal or political interests.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)