London — London's Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into gatherings held at No. 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official residence and office, which may have violatedlockdown laws, the police commissioner said Tuesday.
The government's own cabinet office has been conducting an investigation for weeks into allegations of multiple parties held at Downing Street while restrictions were in place, and whether they were attended by the prime minister, who admitted to spending less than half an hour at one outdoor gathering with food and wine. He said he believed it was a "work event."
Amid, even from members of his own party, the cabinet office's report, put together by longtime civil servant Sue Gray, was widely expected to be published this week. British broadcasters said Tuesday, however, that its release may be delayed due to the now ongoing police investigation.
"What I can tell you this morning is that, as a result firstly of the information provided by the cabinet office inquiry team, and secondly my officers' own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said on Tuesday.
On Monday, fresh allegations of another party — a birthday celebration for Johnson himself on June 19, 2020 — were reported by British broadcaster ITV News. ITV also said Johnson had hosted family friends in his residence later that evening.
At the time, people from more than one household were not permitted to meet indoors, but groups of up to six people were allowed to gather outside, with social distancing. Essential stores were open, but restaurants, bars, and hairdressers all remained closed, along with most schools. Just the week before, Johnson had given a press conference asking the country to continue to follow the rules.
"I urge everyone to continue to show restraint and respect the rules, which are designed to keep us all safe. It's only because of the restraint that everyone, you all have shown so far, that we are able to move gradually out of this lockdown," he said on June 10.
Downing Street confirmed the birthday gathering, but said Johnson attended for less than 10 minutes, ITV News reported. In response to reports of a gathering in his residence later that evening, Downing street said: "This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the Prime Minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening," ITV News said.
for more features.