Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick today announced Scotland Yard has launched a probe into potential breaches of coronavirus laws at a “number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall over two years. The investigation means the findings of the inquiry by civil servant Sue Gray, which had been expected later this week, will be delayed.
ITV’s political editor Mr Peston highlighted how the Partygate scandal will now be hanging over the Conservatives while Scotland Yard carries out its probe.
Writing for the Spectator, Mr Peston said: “The greatest concern for Tory MPs is that in granting a reprieve of weeks or months for the PM, they make it impossible for them to escape the reputational horror of partygate.
“There will be no opportunity for the Tories to relaunch with a clear slate, no compelling means to rebuild their popularity, until Met and Gray conclude their work.
“Out of a sense of natural justice, Tory MPs’ instinct will be to delay their own judgement on Johnson till they have heard from the police and Sue Gray.
“But in being fair to the PM, their party will remain in the dark shadow of Partygate and may become weakened and damaged beyond immediate repair.”
Dame Cressida said on Tuesday that officers were now investigating partygate after being passed information from Ms Gray’s inquiry.
She told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee: “We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office, who have an investigative capability.
“As you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.
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“We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations.”
But she added that there will be updates at “significant points”.
The Prime Minister told MPs it is “right” for Scotland Yard to investigate and that he believes it will “help to draw a line under matters”.
Updating the Commons on the inquiry, Mr Johnson said: “That process has quite properly involved sharing information continuously with the Metropolitan Police, so I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters that “everyone required will fully cooperate in any way they are asked”.
Pressed if Mr Johnson is willing to be interviewed by officers, his spokesman responded: “Anyone asked to will cooperate fully as you would expect.”
Asked if the Prime Minister thinks he has not broken the law, the spokesman said: “I need to be cautious about what I say but I think that’s fair to say that he does not.”