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UK police looking at fresh 'Partygate' claims against Johnson

By AFP - May 24,2023 - Last updated at May 24,2023

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) speaks with former UK prime minister Boris Johnson during a meeting at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday in Austin, Texas (AFP photo)

LONDON — Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson is facing further potential police investigations into the "Partygate" scandal, after a government ministry handed two police forces material about alleged Covid lockdown breaches it emerged on Tuesday.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed it was "assessing" new information it has received over the last week related to "potential breaches" of the coronavirus rules in Downing Street between June 2020 and May 2021.

Meanwhile The Times, which broke the story, said Thames Valley Police was also analysing new evidence related to possible rule-breaking at Chequers, the prime minister's country estate of outside London.

Multiple sources told the newspaper that the alleged breaches involved Johnson's family as well as his friends. A source close to the former leader denied this to the paper.

Johnson, 58, was ousted as prime minister last summer following a revolt within his ruling party after being dogged for months by the accusations of lockdown breaches and other scandals.

He repeatedly denied in parliament, and elsewhere, that he or his staff had breached his own pandemic era restrictions by holding boozy gatherings in Downing Street.

But the Met issued fines to dozens of aides after a criminal probe, and Johnson became the first serving UK prime minister found to have broken the law, over one of the gatherings.

The ex-leader is currently being investigated by a parliamentary committee over whether he lied to MPs about “Partygate”, in a process that could ultimately trigger his removal as a lawmaker.

The spectre of new police probes follows the Cabinet Office, which supports prime ministers and ensures the effective running of government, passing the two forces new “information”.

It “came to light” as the ministry prepares for a public inquiry into the country’s pandemic response.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the material 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,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesman for Johnson said: “Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the Covid inquiry.”

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