The Metropolitan Police has concluded its investigation into Partygate events in Whitehall after dishing out more than 120 fines for events on eight separate dates – and ultimately paving the way for Sue Gray’s long-awaited report to be released.
Scotland Yard has confirmed to Boris Johnson that he will face “no further action” after he was handed one fixed penalty notice last month for an event that took place at Downing Street on his 56th birthday. His wife, Carrie, has received a similar confirmation, said The Guardian.
In total, the force said it had issued 126 fixed penalty notices to 83 people, including the prime minister, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, fined for attending the same birthday event.
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The conclusion of Operation Hillman – the name given to the force’s investigation into Partygate allegations – means senior civil servant Gray can now publish her report. The Independent said it “could come as soon as next week”.
Published findings so far
Gray released a limited interim report in January that criticised “failures of leadership and judgement” by No. 10 and the Cabinet Office. But she said she was unable to “provide a meaningful report” at the time due to the police investigation. Scotland Yard “told me that it would only be appropriate to make minimal reference to the gatherings on the dates they are investigating” and so “I am extremely limited in what I can say”, she wrote.
The pending full report is thought to be “even more personally critical” of Johnson and “could end his premiership”, said the Daily Mail.
He is said to have attended at least six of a total of 12 events investigated by the Met. But his avoidance of further fines seems to suggest that the police “have accepted that the PM’s appearance at various gatherings being investigated was justified”, said The Guardian.
It seems “the Met believe that his presence at these was ‘reasonably necessary’ for work purposes” but his aides’ presence was not, tweeted The Mirror’s political editor Pippa Crerar.
Moment of maximum danger
The publication of Gray’s report could be the moment of “maximum danger for Boris Johnson’s hopes of holding onto office as prime minister”, said The Independent, as many Tory MPs wait to see “how much personal blame is apportioned to him before deciding whether to submit letters of no confidence”.
Last month, one senior official reported to be familiar with the Gray report said the contents were “damning” for Johnson. “Sue’s report is excoriating. It will make things incredibly difficult for the prime minister,” the official told The Times. “There’s an immense amount of pressure on her – her report could be enough to end him. No official has ever been in a position like this before.”
Johnson managed to endure his police fine “relatively unscathed”, said Liz Bates at Sky News. But the respite won’t last for long. In her interim report, Gray “didn't hold back and her scope is broader - she will consider more events and her findings will be much more detailed”, explained Bates.
It is “widely believed in Westminster” that Johnson will try to “cling onto power” unless he is removed by his own MPs, said The Mirror.
Avoiding further fines would “seemingly limit” the likelihood that a significant contingent of Tory MPs might move against him, added The Guardian.
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