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UK police will not probe lockdown party claims

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-12-10 09:11
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People walk through a Christmas market in Trafalgar Square, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, Dec 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Scotland Yard says there is not enough evidence COVID-19 rules were broken

Claims United Kingdom government officials celebrated Christmas last December with a party at the prime minister's Downing Street office-when virus restrictions prohibited such gatherings-will not be probed by police.

The allegations, which have infuriated many in the UK because they suggest people in power may not follow the rules they set, appeared to have been substantiated by a video that emerged of government aides laughing about the party soon after it happened.

The government has repeatedly said no party took place.

The Metropolitan Police, which handles most law enforcement in London, said late Wednesday the allegations of novel coronavirus rule-breaking would not be investigated because of "an absence of evidence".

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised on Thursday morning that a government probe into the alleged Dec 18 party-announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday-will get to the bottom of things.

He said on Radio 4's Today program that civil servant Simon Case, the Cabinet secretary, will also look at allegations of other illegal gatherings and virus rule-breaking involving government figures.

" (It is) not fixated on a particular date," he said of the probe. "I think that's important; and that they establish the facts."

The BBC said it had heard claims about three illegal government parties, on Nov 27, 2020, Dec 10, and Dec 18.

Javid told Times Radio Case will "look wherever he wishes, not just in Downing Street".

"There was a report earlier this week that the Department for Education may have had an inappropriate gathering and it's important that he can look wherever he needs to, speak to whoever he wants to, and establish the facts," Javid said.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, said she not only believes the party happened but that rule-breaking in government is rife.

"There's a number of allegations around parties at the flat at No 10, parties in No 10, parties in other departments," she said on the BBC's Breakfast program. "This is devastating news for people who did the right thing last Christmas, who lost loved ones, who weren't able to visit them before they died."

The Guardian newspaper noted the party allegedly took place when London was in Tier 2 of virus restrictions, which was a high state of alert that prohibited indoor social mixing between households.

Rayner said many people are "very angry" about the apparent double-standards.

She said: "The government is not above the law, and they should be held accountable for their actions."

Some members of Johnson's ruling Conservative Party have also expressed outrage, and said the prime minister must resign if it is proven there was a party, and that he knew about it and misled Parliament.

The Times newspaper said Johnson will likely face several days of "turmoil" because of the claims, which overshadowed the birth of his second child with his wife Carrie.

Meanwhile, government spokeswoman Allegra Stratton resigned on Wednesday over the video, which shows her joking about the party from the podium that Johnson uses for virus news conferences.

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