Met refers itself to police watchdog over handling of Downing Street Christmas party allegations

The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the police watchdog over its handling of allegations that a party took place in Downing Street last Christmas.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed on Tuesday that it had received a referral from the Met on Friday December 17.

The referral follows a complaint lodged by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a Green Party peer, who complained about the Met’s refusal to investigate a Christmas party believed to have taken place in Downing Street on December 18 2020 in breach of lockdown restrictions.

Baroness Jones alleged that the Met’s refusal to investigate was a “conflict of interest and a potential cover up”.

The details of the Downing Street party emerged after footage was leaked of senior Number 10 aides laughing about a Christmas party in a practice media briefing, during which they jokingly referred to it as a “business meeting” and a “cheese and wine” event.

Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s former press secretary, was forced to resign following the scandal.

The Met Police said they were aware of the footage and allegations in relation to alleged breaches of coronavirus restrictions, but that they would not retrospectively investigate such events.

On December 6, Baroness Jones wrote to the IOPC to complain about “police involvement in the Christmas party held at Number 10”.

“Due to the extensive police presence at 10 Downing Street, including their role in controlling all access to and from Downing Street, I believe that there is a case to answer for the police aiding and abetting a criminal offence, or deliberately failing to enforce the law in favour of Government politicians and their staff,”  Baroness Jones wrote.

Her letter continued: “Put very simply, if there was an unlawful gathering taking place at Number 10 Downing Street, then the police must have known, and were highly likely to have played an active part in organising or facilitating the illegal gathering.

“Furthermore, now that this Christmas Party has been reported, the Met Police commissioner has refused to investigate. This refusal, in light of the likely role of police officers facilitating, aiding, and abetting the unlawful gathering, is a conflict of interest and potential cover up.”

‘Assessing whether further action is required’

When an individual lodges a complaint with the IOPC, it is also sent to the force in question, which is expected to make a decision on whether to voluntarily refer itself. 

On Tuesday, an IOPC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that, on Friday 17 December, we received a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service of a complaint about an alleged party at Downing Street in December 2020.

“We are assessing it to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.”

Allegra Stratton was asked a series of mock questions in December 2020 about the alleged party

Credit: ITV News/ITV News

In the leaked Downing Street press conference footage, a voice said to be senior Number 10 adviser Ed Oldfield is heard asking what appear to be mock questions to Ms Stratton.

Ms Stratton is asked: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

“I went home,” she replies, before laughing and adding: “Hold on, hold on, erm.”

The Number 10 adviser then asks Ms Stratton: “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”

She laughs again, before querying: “What’s the answer?”, to which a voice suggests: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”

Ms Stratton continues: “Is cheese and wine alright? It was a business meeting.”

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