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‘Partygate’ Met Police accused of orchestrating a ‘stitch-up’

Suspicions rise as Scotland Yard demands cuts to Sue Gray's report into Downing Street's alleged lockdown-busting parties

PUBLICATION of the “partygate” inquiry was thrown into confusion and disarray today with the Met Police being accused of orchestrating a “stitch-up.”

Scotland Yard has asked senior civil servant Sue Gray to make only “minimal reference” in her inquiry report to events now subject to a criminal investigation.

But the force has been heavily criticised by campaigners, MPs and legal experts for seemingly urging Ms Gray to limit the effective remit of her investigation.

The intervention has been seen as an attempt to buy more time for PM Boris Johnson as he faces a threat to his leadership over allegations he was involved in lockdown-busting parties at No 10.

Fran Hall, whose husband served for more than three decades as a police officer before dying of coronavirus, accused the Met of letting bereaved families down as the inquiry becomes a “circus.”

The spokeswoman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said: “Tragically it seems that the Metropolitan Police have broken the trust of the public by first refusing to investigate flagrant law-breaking and now demanding any other investigations hide the most serious illegalities.

“It’s incredibly painful and they have let families like mine down. My husband was completely committed to justice and he would have been appalled by this.”

There is now speculation across Whitehall as to whether this means the report will now not be published until after the police have completed their investigations.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer insisted he wanted to see the Sue Gray report “in full.”

He said: “The government is paralysed because of the Prime Minister’s behaviour in Downing Street and the attempts of his Cabinet to save his skin.

“The Gray report must be published in full as soon as possible and the police have to get on with their investigation. 

“But Britain faces huge challenges as we emerge from the pandemic and it is offensive that the government’s sole focus is on cleaning up after themselves.”

Labour MP Richard Burgon, secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, called the whole thing “a stitch-up” which will “further undermine public trust."

He said: “First the police wouldn’t investigate. Now they’re saying their investigation means key details will be left out.”

Former Crown Prosecution Service chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal called the stance of the Met “absolute nonsense” and said he was at a loss to see how “a purely factual report could possibly prejudice a police investigation.”

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott found the latest developments “completely unsurprising.”

She said that Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick “has effectively gagged Sue Gray’s report” and called the developments “a crude cover-up.”

Senior Tory Sir Roger Gale likened the events to a “Whitehall farce made in Scotland Yard”  which could buy more time for the “lame-duck” Prime Minister.

He said: “Unless there’s a legal barrier to Sue Gray publishing her report it should be published now and in full.”

Former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald said the move seems “disproportionate” in the face of “very powerful” public interest in the report’s swift publication.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added her voice to those calling for the report to be published in full but said we already know “Boris Johnson misled Parliament.”

Dame Cressida announced on Tuesday the force had launched its own inquiry, after being handed information by Ms Gray.

It has not been revealed how many of the gatherings in Downing Street or Whitehall are under investigation by Ms Gray or the police.

In its full statement this morning, Scotland Yard said: “For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.

“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesman has said the Prime Minister did not believe he had broken any rules.

Downing Street said it had not had any conversations with the Met or the Cabinet Office over what can be published.

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