U.K. police widen net after new ‘partygate’ photo of PM

Scandal has put Johnson in jeopardy, with MPs calling for his resignation

February 10, 2022 10:09 pm | Updated 10:12 pm IST - London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. File

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. File

The U.K. police have widened their probe into Downing Street lockdown events after a new photo emerged of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and are set to question more than 50 individuals.

The “partygate” scandal has placed Mr. Johnson in political jeopardy, with several MPs from his Conservative party publicly calling for his resignation, although he denies any wrongdoing.

A Christmas “quiz night” held at Mr. Johnson’s Number 10 offices was not previously part of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, which could potentially see him and staff fined for breaking COVID-19 restrictions.

But the police said they were now looking at the December 2020 event, after the Daily Mirror printed the photo of Mr. Johnson and two colleagues — one draped in tinsel — near an open bottle of sparkling wine.

The Met also confirmed that, by Friday, it would be sending “formal questionnaires to more than 50 people” to ask about their activities on the dates of at least 12 gatherings in Downing Street over 2020 and 2021.

The document “has formal legal status and must be answered truthfully” within seven days, the police noted.

Asked whether the government would confirm if Mr. Johnson is one of the recipients, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told BBC radio: “The Prime Minister has said he will be full and transparent.” Separately, the Opposition Labour party has called for the police to investigate how Mr. Johnson came to use a wealthy Conservative donor for a lavish redecoration of his Downing Street flat.

Lawyers for Labour wrote to the Met that there was a “reasonable suspicion” that the Prime Minister had broken anti-bribery laws, and the force was “duty-bound” to investigate. The police confirmed receipt of the letter, and said the demand was being reviewed.

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