Downing Street parties: As the Met Police launch an investigation into partygate, what happens next for Boris Johnson and his Government?

Even for seasoned hacks, it can be tough keeping on top of the deluge of news emanating from Downing Street.

But the announcement the Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into partygate was quite something.

It raises the prospect of officers interviewing Boris Johnson and fines potentially being doled out in the heart of government.

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It is yet another remarkable moment in a scandal full of them.

Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
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Downing Street considering what parts of Sue Gray report can be published as pol...

Commissioner Cressida Dick said police were probing “a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations”.

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She stressed this does not mean that “fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved”.

Some will query why it took so long for the police to investigate.

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But now they are, some key questions arise.

Firstly, what impact will this have on senior civil servant Sue Gray’s much-anticipated inquiry into partygate?

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman initially suggested parts of the report may be delayed.

“As the terms of reference make clear, they won’t publish anything that relates to the work of the police,” he told journalists.

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However, it now seems this isn’t the case.

In fact, there are claims the full report could be released imminently, with the Met raising no objections to publication.

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That raises another question. What does all this mean for Mr Johnson’s beleaguered premiership?

Newspapers have been full of speculation over a possible vote of no confidence.

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Some Tory MPs were waiting for Ms Gray’s findings before deciding whether to push for this.

If her report is indeed incoming, it could mark the beginning of the end for the Prime Minister.

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But if MPs opt to wait for the result of the police investigation, that could buy Mr Johnson some time.

Ms Gray’s report is expected to make clear it is for the police to decide if the law was broken. Wavering MPs could point to this to justify not acting quite yet.

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After all, there’s always the possibility that anger will fade and other concerns will come to the fore.

There’s no shortage of other stuff happening, as the situation in Ukraine shows.

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On the other hand, this would leave the issue hanging over Downing Street like a bad smell.

The stench would carry on wafting its way through the corridors of power, and any hope of letting in some fresh air would recede into the distance.

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Opposition politicians won’t drop it and journalists are having far too much fun to even contemplate letting go.

Mr Johnson has already taken a huge hit in the polls and Ms Gray’s report could inflict further damage.

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Findings of rule-breaking criminality in his Government would surely prove deadly.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the very fact that police are investigating just looks awful in and of itself.

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Will Tory MPs be able to stomach holding their noses for much longer?

Then there’s Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives.

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Mr Ross, the party’s leader, called for the Prime Minister’s resignation on January 12, which somehow feels like a lifetime ago.

From his point of view, every day that Mr Johnson clings to power is bad.

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There are local elections in May and a general election is due to take place in a couple of years.

To put it mildly, Mr Ross will face some awkward questions on the doorstep if he enters an election campaign with a UK leader he wants to see the back of.

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Some argue Mr Johnson’s survival would leave Mr Ross with no choice, but to lead a split from the UK Conservative Party.

This still feels unlikely, if only because it’s hard to see the Prime Minister lasting much longer.

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Having called for him to go, the Scottish Tories desperately want Mr Johnson to get a move on out the door.

Tory MPs will worry about how much of the country feels the exact same way. The crunch point is approaching.

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