Sajid Javid grilled by Sky News host on the Christmas Party
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Scotland Yard has confirmed it will not “commence an investigation at this time” in line with a “policy not to investigate retrospective breaches”, despite looking at the claims and with leaked footage showing No 10 staff joking about it. But the Metropolitan Police said it would consider any new evidence unearthed in an internal investigation. The Prime Minister yesterday asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to carry out a probe as he told MPs he was “furious” about the video.
Amid mounting public anger Allegra Stratton, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson, resigned after the footage emerged on Tuesday night.
It shows the former BBC and ITV journalist and other No 10 aides “seeming to make light of lockdown measures” just days after last year’s alleged party.
The Met said it had received “a significant amount of correspondence” relating to the alleged rule-breaking, but said it did not “provide evidence of a breach”.
The Met added: “Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time.
“The Met has had discussions with the Cabinet Office in relation to the investigation. If any evidence is found as a result of that, it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”
In the Commons the PM vented frustration about the video, which showed a mock news conference where aides joked and laughed about a gathering.
Ms Stratton appeared to giggle about breaching social distancing rules over “cheese and wine”. Her conduct triggered a backlash from bereaved families and others who followed the rules.
Mr Johnson took the unusual step of opening Prime Minister’s Questions with an apology. He said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing Number 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures.
“I can understand how infuriating it must be to think the people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules. I was also furious to see that clip. I apologise unreservedly for the offence it has caused and for the impression that it gives.”
With the Tory leader facing attacks from within his own party, Mr Johnson added: “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.
“But I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible.
“It goes without saying that if those rules were broken, there will be disciplinary action for all those involved.”
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the PM would have to resign if he was found to have misled MPs about the gathering: “If he knew it took place, then he cannot come to the House of Commons and say there was no party.”
And Sir Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet in Kent, said: “It’s worrying that the man at the top of the tree doesn’t appear to know what’s going on in his own building two floors below him.”
Mr Johnson endured a bruising session at the despatch box as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tore into the Government over the party allegations and antics of the aides.
He said: “They knew there was a party, they knew it was against the rules, they knew they could not admit it and they thought it was funny. The Prime Minister has been caught red-handed. Why does he not end the investigation right now by just admitting it?”
The Labour leader contrasted the behaviour with the dignified way the Queen observed social distancing at Prince Philip’s funeral: “Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man whom she had been married to for 73 years. Sacrifice – that is what gives leaders the moral authority to lead.”
Jackie Green, whose 86-year-old mum Beryl Harris died alone in hospital from Covid on December 18 last year, described the video as “totally reprehensible”.
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