Following the Cabinet Office‘s discovery of fresh evidence of alleged lockdown violations, Boris Johnson’s future has once more been turned over to the police.
According to a report in The Times today, the former prime minister, 58, reportedly hosted friends and family at Chequers between June 2020 and May 2021.
As part of an investigation into how his administration responded to the coronavirus outbreak, Johnson’s government-funded lawyers discovered proof of the trips in his ministerial diary.
The alleged get-togethers in Chequers, an official country residence for British prime ministers, were ‘clearly a breach of the rules’, a source told the newspaper.
His legal team decided they were duty-bound to raise the potential breaches of lockdown rules to the Cabinet Office, according to The Times.
The Cabinet Office, under the terms of the civil service code, should ‘report evidence of criminal or unlawful activity’ to the authorities.
London’s Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police have confirmed officers are looking over the evidence handed over by Cabinet Office officials.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told The Times: ‘Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry.
‘It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.
‘In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.’
Johnson and his wife, Carrie, stayed at Chequers during the first lockdown when shelter-in-place rules closed people’s front doors shut and shuttered businesses. He recuperated from Covid-19 there in April 2020.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said: ‘Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the Covid Inquiry.
‘Following an examination of the entries, Mr Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and privileges committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any Covid regulations.’
This new revelation adds to the already chaotic drama that began in November 2021 when three social gatherings held in Downing Street during lockdown came to light.
Fearing his political unravelling, Johnson told Parliament the following month that Number 10 never violated any coronavirus guidelines.
But Sue Gray, a former senior civil servant, saw differently. In a major report, she painted a picture of ‘excessive’ workplace drinking in Downing Street, citing 16 social parties.
Late-night booze-filled parties with wine bottles scattered around and a leaving do with a karaoke machine and even a dust-up between two staffers were among the raucous gatherings described by Gray.
Others included a bring-your-own-booze cocktail party in May 2020 and a basement bash held one day before Prince Phillip’s funeral in which a swing was broken and a staffer was sent to the Co-op with a suitcase to fetch more booze.
‘There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,’ Gray wrote in the report released May last year.
‘Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.’
The Met issued 126 fines relating to eight gatherings in and around Downing Street and Whitehall, some of which Johnson attended.
Johnson was among those fined – for attending his 56th birthday party on June 19 20202 – making him the first premier to ever be found to have broken the law.
But in March this year, he admitted that he had misled the House of Commons but stressed that it was what he believed at the time.
He told Parliament’s privileges committee, which is investigating whether he lied to MPs about violating lockdown rules, he did not do so ‘intentionally or recklessly’.
Johnson said none of his most-trusted aides warned him before or after that the gatherings violated social-distancing restrictions. It is up to the privileges committee to decide whether such rules should have been obvious, regardless of what his staff told him.
The committee has been informed about the alleged entries in Johnson’s diary.
MPs are expected to publish their potentially make-or-break report on whether the former Tory leader broke lockdown rules next month.
If the committee rules he misled Parliament, Johnson may be suspended.
A ban of 10 days or more could all but extinguish any possibility that he could revive his political career as it would instead ignite a by-election in his seat.
He has been an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in north-west London since 2015 but holds it on the razor-thin majority of 7,210.
For Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a campaign group consisting of bereaved people, Johnson must ‘quietly step back from public life’.
‘These revelations make a grim mockery of Boris Johnson’s claims that he didn’t break his own lockdown rules,’ the group tweeted.
‘His legacy is one of lying, complete contempt for the ordinary people he was supposed to protect, and above all, presiding over the deaths of nearly 200,000 people,’ it added.
‘If he had any respect he’s quietly step back from public life and reflect on the pain and suffering he has inflicted.’