British police have said they will investigate reports of a spate of parties held at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's residence and office during Covid-19 lockdowns.
London police have said they were investigating Downing Street lockdown parties in 2020 to determine if UK government officials violated coronavirus restrictions, putting further pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Metropolitan Police Service launched an inquiry on Tuesday into “a number of events” at Downing Street, Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, the capital’s local government council.
The allegations met the force’s criteria for investigating the “most serious and flagrant” breaches of Covid-19 rules, she added.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the police investigation.
“The public rightly expect the police to uphold the law without fear or favour, no matter who that involves,” Khan said in a statement.
“No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the government and another for everyone else.”
Police previously faced criticism for suggesting that they wouldn’t investigate the “partygate” scandal because they don’t routinely investigate historical breaches of coronavirus regulations.
But Dick told the assembly that an investigation was warranted in this case because there is evidence that those involved knew or should have known that what they were doing was illegal.
She said not investigating would “significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law,” and there seems to be no reasonable defence for the conduct.
The gatherings are already being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, whose report, expected this week, will be crucial in determining whether Johnson can remain in power.
The Cabinet Office said Gray's investigation would continue. But it wasn't immediately clear whether Gray would have to delay the announcement of her findings because of the police investigation.
In response, Johnson's spokesman said the prime minister does not believe he has broken the law but will "cooperate fully" with the probe.
"The prime minister thinks it is entirely right for the police to investigate these matters," the spokesman said, adding that everyone would cooperate fully with the investigation.
In the latest revelation, ITV News reported late on Monday that Johnson attended a birthday party in his Downing Street office and later hosted friends at his official residence upstairs in June 2020.
His office denied that the gathering violated lockdown regulations, saying that the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outdoors, which was in line with rules at the time.