Alex Cunningham, MP for James Cleverly’s favourite constituency of Stockton North, has tried to get topical question selected at Home Office questions this afternoon to bring up last week’s s**ithole controversy again. Failing that, Cunningham got up at the end of the session to deliver a point of order – only to get shot down by Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing. No doubt he’ll keep trying…
UPDATE: Cleverly has returned to the chamber to apologise for using unparliamentary language in front of Cunningham, who wasn’t having it. Laing has shut down further comment.
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.
Since we broke the story about Anne Jenkin’s party in Parliament, we have been getting snippets of tips about other lockdown legislators’ lawbreaking parties in Westminster. We know of other parties held by Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing in her offices on other days. We know of other MPs attending those parties. We also know of other parties held elsewhere. Guido believes that there is a cover-up being quietly organised by senior MPs who realise that on this issue “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
This is a call for information to add to our dossier. If you have evidence, invitations via WhatsApp or emails, better still photos. These parties were not held in total secrecy. Staff in Parliament will have known…
Guido relies on co-conspirators for information, and makes every technological effort to make it easy and safe to blow the whistle on politicians:
We may even send tipster co-conspirators a Guido-branded mouse mat if your tip is used!
Sources are anonymous (unless you want credit). Who is covering up? Who is lying? If you know “the line” is a lie, ask yourself why you got into politics; was it to cover up the truth or to tell it?
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.”
Guido understands that the Metropolitan Police have confirmed to the Speaker’s Office they will investigate, despite the passage of time, if a formal complaint is made about Bernard Jenkin following our exclusive report. Guido also understands that Eleanor Laing has changed her story and given conflicting explanations for the events of December 8, 2020. There is a “list of attendees” circulating in Westminster, they are not answering their phones to the media…
UPDATE: The complaint would have to be from a first person witness, not from a third party based on media reports.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously reported the Speaker’s Office had been told an investigation was already under way.