Carrie Johnson's texts in spotlight as wait goes on for partygate report

Police criticised for throwing inquiry into Downing Street parties into confusion

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie live in a flat above the government headquarters in Downing Street. Reuters

Fresh claims involving the wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have emerged in the “partygate” inquiry engulfing British politics, as police came under fire from MPs for muddying the waters in the investigation.

As the wait dragged on for ethics investigator Sue Gray to report back on alleged lockdown breaches at Mr Johnson’s office, her team was said to have studied texts sent by Carrie Johnson before her then-fiance’s birthday in June 2020.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the texts suggest Mrs Johnson had offered to organise a cake and asked a Downing Street official to invite staff to the gathering.

Claims senior officials held a string of parties during lockdown have infuriated Britons who endured months of lonely monotony under coronavirus rules, putting Mr Johnson’s position in doubt.

Downing Street denies many of the claims and says Mr Johnson only attended the birthday event for 10 minutes.

But the report by Ms Gray, which was meant to clear up the facts, was thrown into confusion this week when London’s Metropolitan Police announced its own investigation and said it had asked for redactions in the Gray report.

Police commander Catherine Roper said the Met had asked for “minimal reference” in Ms Gray’s report to events under scrutiny by detectives.

That led to an outcry from MPs from across the political spectrum, who called for the report to be released in full – with some muttering darkly about a cover-up.

Claims of parties behind the famous black door of 10 Downing Street have angered many Britons. Reuters

With police saying the potential offences under investigation would lead to no more than a fine for breaking the rules, critics said it was not clear how Ms Gray’s report would prejudice such an investigation.

“Every single MP has been waiting for this Sue Gray report to land,” Tobias Ellwood, a member of Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party, told LBC radio.

“To hear now that parts of it might be redacted, or somehow interfered with, with a police report, is simply wrong,” said Mr Ellwood.

Asked whether Ms Gray should ignore the Met’s advice and publish her report in full, he said: “100 per cent”.

Neil Coyle, an opposition Labour MP, said the police looked “embarrassing and inept” and their investigation should not impede the Gray report.

He said Mr Johnson's moves to switch attention to the Ukraine crisis would not allow him to break free from the scandal.

Diane Abbott, also from Labour, said Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick had “effectively gagged” Ms Gray’s inquiry.

Ms Dick was already under pressure over the force’s handling of a series of other issues, such as the harrowing kidnap and murder of a young woman by a serving police officer last year.

Reports suggested Mr Johnson could be handed the report as early as this weekend – although the timetable has changed repeatedly in recent days.

The prime minister has deflected questions until the report is published. Downing Street said he attended the June 2020 gathering for 10 minutes, and denied claims there was a separate party in his private flat.

Under the rules in place at the time of Mr Johnson’s 54th birthday, six people were allowed to meet outdoors but not inside. Allies of the prime minister have sought to portray the alleged parties as mere work gatherings.

Other alleged rule-breaking events included gatherings in April on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when his widow Queen Elizabeth II sat alone in an image that starkly captured the sacrifices of lockdown.

Conservative rebels have yet to amass the 54 signatures from their own benches, which would be needed to trigger a party confidence vote in Mr Johnson.

If that failed, he would be immune from another such challenge for 12 months. However, Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May was gone within a year of surviving such a vote, after losing authority in her cabinet over Brexit.

Updated: January 29, 2022, 11:48 AM