Boris Johnson will not face a police investigation into alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street unless an inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray finds evidence of potential criminal offences, the Metropolitan Police said on Thursday.
The prime minister has faced calls to resign from within his Conservative Party as well as from opposition leaders after he admitted on Wednesday that he attended a party in the Downing Street garden on May 20th, 2020.
Ms Gray, a senior official in the cabinet office, is investigating up to eight gatherings in Downing Street and other government offices that may have breached lockdown rules.
“The Met has ongoing contact with the cabinet office in relation to this inquiry,” the police said in a statement.
“If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”
The police statement came as Conservatives descended into infighting over Mr Johnson’s future after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross called on the prime minister to resign. Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg responded by saying that Mr Ross, who is a member of both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament, was “not a big figure”.
“Douglas Ross has always been quite a lightweight figure,” he told the BBC.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments showed how Scotland was being treated with “utter contempt” by the government in Westminster. She said that, despite her political differences with Mr Ross, she was not as derogatory about him as his Conservative colleagues were.
“‘Not a big figure’, ‘lightweight’ – these might be personal insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives but actually they say something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland,” she said.
“Independence is fundamentally about empowerment and aspiration but, you know what, an added benefit of being independent is it will no longer have to put up with being treated like something on the sole of Westminster’s shoe.”
Mr Johnson pulled out of a planned visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire on Thursday after a member of his family tested positive for coronavirus. Just four Conservative MPs have called publicly for the prime minister to resign but many more have offered only qualified support, saying that they would wait for Ms Gray’s report before passing judgment.
This was the formulation adopted by the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, the frontrunner to succeed Mr Johnson who was away from Westminster on Wednesday and did not tweet his support for the prime minister until after 8pm. Foreign secretary Liz Truss, the other leading contender, waited even longer to tweet a message of support, although she said she stood 100 per cent behind Mr Johnson.
Opinion polls this week have shown a sharp drop in support for the Conservative, with YouGov showing Labour 10 points ahead, the party’s biggest lead since 2013. The poll, which was conducted before Mr Johnson admitted on Wednesday that he attended the May 2020 party, found that six in 10 voters believed he should resign, including almost four in 10 of those who voted Conservative in 2019.