Sue Gray’s failure to investigate ‘Abba party’ in PM’s flat angers MPs

MPs have reacted with anger over the failure to fully investigate an alleged party held in Boris Johnson’s flat during lockdown, reportedly with alcohol, food and Abba songs.

The six-month Partygate inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray ended with an acknowledgement that little was known about what took place in the flat above 11 Downing Street on 13 November 2020. It would not be “appropriate or proportionate” to investigate further, Gray said.

The report, published on Wednesday, said a “meeting” was held in the Downing Street flat involving the prime minister and five political special advisers to discuss the resignations of two senior No 10 aides that day – Johnson’s chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, and his director of communications, Lee Cain.

Gray said the meeting began after 6pm and Johnson joined at about 8pm, and the discussions “carried on later into the evening” with food and alcohol available.

But she admitted her knowledge of the gathering was limited because she had only just started collecting evidence about it before the Metropolitan police announced its own Partygate investigation in January, prompting her investigation to stop to avoid prejudicing officers’ inquiries.

When the Met’s Operation Hillman came to an end last week, with 126 fines handed out, Gray said she “considered whether or not to conduct any further investigation into this event but concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate to do so”.

The move is likely to spark accusations of a cover-up, with MPs concerned that potentially the most damaging event of the Partygate scandal was not properly addressed by Gray’s inquiry.

A frontbench Conservative MP said they were disappointed the Gray report “doesn’t clear up what parties did or didn’t happen in his flat”, and added: “I think he’s getting away lightly.”

The Labour MP Justin Madders tackled Johnson over the discrepancy in the Commons on Wednesday. He said: “I want to ask [the prime minister] specifically about the gathering in his flat on 13 November 2020 which, contrary to what he said today, hasn’t been investigated by Sue Gray.

“Can he confirm for the record everyone who was there that evening and [that] there was no alcohol, no music, or anything else that people might reasonably conclude constituted a party?”

Johnson declined, saying he had “nothing to add” to the findings of the Gray report.

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Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP, said she was “puzzled as to why the Abba party in the prime minister’s flat has never been investigated either by Sue Gray or the Met police”. She added: “So can I ask the PM what can be done by way of an independent investigation to assure me and my constituents that the Met police have not been nobbled?”

Johnson again dismissed the question, saying her accusation would “greatly surprise me”, adding: “I think she should look more closely at Sue Gray’s report because I think she will find the answer she needs.”

The prime minister is likely to face further questions during a press conference and a private meeting with Conservative backbenchers on Wednesday afternoon.

The Guardian