Partygate: Metropolitan Police fines ‘issued over No 10 Christmas party’

Metropolitan Police are believed to have begun issuing more fines to Downing Street staff over gatherings held in government offices during the Covid lockdown curbs.

Scotland Yard is starting to hand out fines over a Christmas party held at No 10 on 18 December 2020, according to The Mirror.

The festive bash, details of which first emerged at the end of last year and sparked the Partygate scandal, was said to have been attended by dozens of Boris Johnson’s staff.

Scotland Yard would not confirm if fines had yet been issued over the event – held while London was in strict Tier 3 measures – but it is one of 12 events its Operation Hillman team is investigating.

Mr Johnson was forced to address the issue of the 18 December bash after the explosive leak of a video showing staff holding a mock press conference and making jokes about a Christmas party.

It led to the resignation of government aide Allegra Stratton and the announcement of an investigation by top civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation.

The report on fresh fines comes as senior Tours tried to step up pressure on Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer over the so-called “Beergate” saga.

A leaked memo in the Mail on Sunday indicated that the takeaway meal in Durham had been planned as part of Sir Keir’s itinerary for from 8.40pm to 10pm on the day of campaigning last April, no further work was scheduled after the dinner.

The only business listed after the dinner is for Sir Keir to walk back to his hotel – he had previously claimed he “paused for food” and continued working after the meal, saying “the idea that nobody works at 10 o’clock at night is absurd”.

Separately, a source who was present at the event told the Sunday Times: “He did not go back to work to the best of my knowledge.” The same source said some Labor people “were just there for a jolly”.

A spokesman for Starmer’s office said: “Keir was working, a takeaway was made available in the kitchen, and he ate between work demands. No rules were broken.”

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries claimed the memo showed there was “no break in a work meeting”, while Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said: “Starmer claimed it was an impromptu curry. Turns out it was pre-planned.”

Deputy PM Dominic Raab accused Sir Keir of “complete hypocrisy” over the Durham beer, telling Sky News on Sunday: “He needs to fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer-and-curry event in Durham.”

But labor frontbencher Lisa Nandy described Sir Keir as “Mr Rules” on Sunday, and said Tory ministers’ attacks over the Beergate saga were “frankly absurd and pretty desperate”.

The shadow levelling up secretary told BBC’s Sunday Morning program: “It’s absurd to equate serial partying, lying and laughter … and a work event that people broke to eat.”

She wouldn’t say whether Starmer should resign if he is fined over a takeaway. “I’m not going to get into a hypothetical because I don’t believe for one moment he broke the rules,” Ms Nandy said.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it would be difficult for Sir Keir to continue as Labor leader if he is fined. “No politician is above the law,” he told the BBC. “If they get a fixed-penalty notice after a police investigation, it’s extremely difficult for them to continue.”

Andrew Fisher, former policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, said Starmer would emerge in a stronger position if he avoids a fine.

“If he is cleared by police, he’ll be able to stand up in Parliament and say ‘Look, I was investigated and cleared. You [Johnson] were investigated and found guilty’,” he told LBC.

Meanwhile, The Mirror reported that Mr Johnson’s deputy principal private secretary Stuart Glassborow – pictured alongside the PM at a Christmas quiz on 15 December – left his job last week.

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