The Met and Thames Valley Police have assessed new material in relation to potential breaches of Covid Regulations in 2020 and 2021. The Met will be opening one investigation and re-opening a previous investigation.
The approach to the assessment of these events has been consistent, enforcing the law carefully, thoroughly, proportionately, impartially and without fear or favour.
The Met has previously published criteria for assessing when to launch investigations into breaches of the Regulations reported retrospectively.
We will do so only when there is evidence of a serious and flagrant breach and where:
It is proportionate and there is evidence that those involved knew or ought to have known what they were doing was an offence.
Not investigating would significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law.
There is little ambiguity around the absence of a reasonable defence.
These criteria have also been used in the assessment made by Thames Valley Police of the potential breaches in their jurisdiction.
Having applied those criteria, the Met carried out a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of breaches of Covid Regulations at Downing Street and Whitehall, under Operation Hillman.
That investigation resulted in 126 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPNs) referrals.
The Met also previously carried out an investigation into an event in Matthew Parker Street on 14 December 2020.
Based on the information available at the time, that investigation did not lead to FPNs, but outcome letters sent to some participants stated that “the Metropolitan Police reserves the right to revisit this decision in the event that further significant evidence comes to light.” The receipt of video evidence has resulted in the Met revisiting and updating the assessment.
A number of other events were subsequently referred to the Met – and Thames Valley Police – with regard to Chequers.
Officers have now assessed these events against the serious and flagrant retrospective criteria for alleged breaches of Covid Regulations, with the following results:
Following assessment of new evidence that was not previously provided to officers, the Met is now re-opening an investigation into potential breaches of the Regulations at an event in Matthew Parker Street on 14 December 2020.
Following assessment of material relating to a gathering in Parliament, the Met is opening an investigation into potential breaches of the Regulations at an event on 8 December 2020.
The Met and Thames Valley Police have assessed material referred by the Cabinet Office regarding potential breaches of the Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street and Chequers. Based on an assessment of that material and an account provided regarding the diary entries, and also having sought some further clarification, the Met and Thames Valley Police have each assessed the events in their jurisdiction and concluded that they do not meet the retrospective criteria for opening an investigation.
The Met and Thames Valley Police continue to reserve the right to revisit assessments in the event that further significant evidence comes to light.
It would not be appropriate to prejudge the outcome of those ongoing investigations or to provide a running commentary on their progress.
The Met will provide further updates at the appropriate time.
Guido can now reveal that the MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosbie, was the co-host of the Anne Jenkin birthday drinks party held in Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing’s parliamentary offices during lockdown. Virginia Crosbie was then the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was at the time urging us all to stay at home and not socialise. Despite being given every opportunity to do so, Virginia Crosbie’s office is refusing to comment and has not issued a denial.
In the WhatsApp invitation from Anne Jenkin, the party is described as “joint birthday drinks“. It was both Virginia Crosbie’s 54th and Anne Jenkin’s 65th birthdays on December 8, 2020.* Why let a little thing like lockdown get in the way of having a party?
Guido should say that on the list of MPs invited, there are three current cabinet minister’s names and the name of one former PM. Guido has managed to speak to only one of those names. She got her SpAd to deny her attendance after claiming she couldn’t remember. The others are refusing to comment.
The obvious thing for the Metropolitan Police to do is the same they did with the suspected attendees at the Downing Street parties. Send a formal letter inviting them to pay a Fixed Notice Penalty or risk more serious consequences in Court if they deny attending and the evidence shows otherwise. As Bernard Jenkin sanctimoniously reminded us on the Privileges Committee: no matter how high we are, none of us are above the law…
UPDATE 22:26: Crosbie has now apologised for attending this event:
“The invitation for this event was not sent out by me. I attended the event briefly, I did not drink and I did not celebrate my birthday. I went home shortly after to be with my family. I apologise unreservedly for a momentary error of judgment in attending the event.”
Bernard Jenkin’s “cowardly” silence hasn’t deterred Guido from digging deeper into the Jenkin’s parties. Yes, you read that right, parties – plural. Guido can reveal that Anne Jenkin’s lockdown-breaking birthday bash in Eleanor Laing’s office wasn’t an isolated event. Just two weeks prior, when the country was in an even stricter lockdown, she hosted a “(socially distanced) party”…
At the time, lockdown regulations made clear “you must not meet socially indoors with family or friends unless they are part of your household… or support bubble”. There was no such thing as a “socially distanced party” permitted, and “everyone who can work effectively from home must do so”. There was no justification for an indoor social celebration – even if it was a ‘work event’.
Perhaps this is why Charlotte Carew Pole, director of Women2Win, has become unwilling to speak to Guido. Despite initially responding receptively, after the topic of conversation became apparent she seemed to suffer immediate amnesia. All she could say was that she didn’t run Women2Win’s social media and that she couldn’t remember any details. Although Charlotte insisted she would get back to Guido, she never has…
Guido did manage to get through to two other attendees of the celebration, held as a hybrid event in Policy Exchange’s Westminster offices. Theresa May was there in-person, as Boris Johnson and David Cameron addressed the event via zoom. The hybrid event could arguably be a “work event”. It was certainly a live-streamed public event.
More problematic is that the event was followed by celebratory drinks described as a “birthday party” and Theresa May stuck around briefly for a few pictures – though apparently left swiftly and Guido has seen no pictorial evidence she had a lockdown-breaking drink. Whilst one of Guido’s source insists masks were worn at all times, the private photos differ from the publicity photos…
Baroness Nicholson pictured on the left (top photo) has no drink, whereas Anne Jenkin (on the right) has a drink in hand. In publicity photos everyone is masked with no drinks in hand. One attendee insisted it wasn’t a party, although they did describe it as “joyful” and “a celebration, definitely”.
Guido has just got off the phone with Bernard Jenkin. Our conversation was short. We got to the point of the call pretty quickly:
Guido: Cast your mind back to December 8th, 2020 during lockdown, do you remember attending a drinks party in parliament held by Eleanor Laing?
Bernard: I did not attend any drinks parties during lockdown.
Guido: It was your wife’s birthday celebration, are you saying you did not have anything to drink?
Bernard: I don’t recall.
Our chat came to a curt end. Fortunately prior to speaking to Sir Bernard, Guido had a longer conversation with Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. She conceded that she held a “business meeting” on that evening, where “I was so strict with my 2 metre ruler and told everyone we will adhere to those rules and be very careful.” Guido laughed when Dame Eleanor claimed she had her 2 metre ruler in front of her right there and then.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons dictated the following statement to Guido
At the beginning of the pandemic I took advice on how many could be present in a room, I had the room measured and I kept a 2 metre ruler so that I could always verify that nobody who was working here was put at risk.
Guido asked her again:
Guido: Were any drinks served?
Eleanor: I don’t know. I will have to check.
No need Eleanor, Guido has already checked. Eleanor hosted a drinks party to celebrate her friend Anne Jenkin’s 65th birthday on that day. There was a cake for Baroness Jenkin and people were invited by WhatsApp for “drinks”. There was a spread of food, other MPs attended including some of the 2019 intake and others. It was not an impromptu affair – the nibbles had been bought in.
One source says that Dame Eleanor did mention the need for social distancing – to some amusement – windows and doors were open, although initial attempts to social distance “went out the window”. The crowd included those typically involved with Anne Jenkin and the Women2Win campaign, such as Maria Miller. A co-conspirator says there was “loads of drink” and that they specifically remember Bernard Jenkin with drink in hand at a jolly affair.
On that day December 8th 2020, London was in Tier 2 lockdown. Gatherings of more than 6 indoors either in a public or private building were against the regulations. No Christmas exception applied and breaches of the regulations were offences which could be prosecuted or dealt with by fixed penalty notices with penalties ranging up to £10,000. The guidance was clear:
Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.
This was a birthday party, in breach of the legal regulations, and to top it off there was even birthday cake.