More post-fine twists to come over Partygate?

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More post-fine twists to come over Partygate?
Police officers in Downing StreetImage source, PA Media

The advent of Partygate, as it has become known, was on 1 December last year. That was when the Daily Mirror first revealed that Covid rules may have been broken by the very people who had made them.

Five-and-a-half months later, we've reached another big moment, because for ages people round Westminster wondered what might happen if the prime minister got another fine. Or so many he could paper a wall with them.

Some are wondering how he managed not to accumulate one or two more fines.

But we now know that isn't going to happen. The Metropolitan Police's role in all this is done.

You might be reading this boiling with anger about what went on. Or perhaps you are past caring, or never really cared at all.

But this mattered: morally to some, legally to others and politically to plenty, and it still does.

When these revelations were tumbling towards us the whole time, there was a real jeopardy about the prime minister's future.

Why? Because Conservative MPs were either livid themselves or only had to open their emails to see that plenty of those who put them in Westminster were furious.

And while the bar to toppling a sitting Conservative prime minister who isn't inclined to shuffle off is pretty high, and there wasn't even a vote of confidence, there was a zing of uncertainty in the Westminster air. He appeared vulnerable.

But with the announcement that the police inquiry is done, the already much more mellow outlook of Tory MPs on it all shows no sign of returning to the caustic. The anger that was there has receded. The demand for action has ebbed.

Boris JohnsonImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Boris Johnson has not received a second Covid fine

Twelve detectives and half a million pounds later, we know the police looked into 12 shindigs, 345 documents and more than 500 photographs.

We know 126 fines were issued to 83 people.

Twenty-eight people got more than one fine. At least one person ended up with five.

Little wonder Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer can say it amounted to "industrial-scale" law-breaking at the heart of government.

How did the prime minister avoid any more fines?

The short answer is that we don't know, because the Metropolitan Police have never connected publicly the events they have looked at with those who were there.

Working that out has been down to us as reporters, and Downing Street's decision to tell us, as and when the prime minister picked up a fine.

What we do know is the police have pointed out that Covid regulations varied over the period of time during which the investigated gatherings took place, plus "included in the review of the circumstances was whether this was someone's home or wasn't someone's home".

Maybe that helped the prime minister. But we don't know. We also don't know what evidence, or lack of it, they had, for any particular get-together.

What happens next?

We are still awaiting the full report from senior civil servant Sue Gray into all this, including into some bashes in Whitehall the police didn't look into.

She published her interim findings a few months back.

The full shebang could well come next week. What further embarrassments for the prime minister might lurk in there?

As my colleagues sources suggest it might be a bumpier moment for the Civil Service than for the prime minister.

But there is one more element to all this worth remembering: a parliamentary inquiry into whether Boris Johnson knowingly misled the Commons on all this, which he denies.

You can read a very useful primer on all that from the Institute for Government think tank.

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner
Image caption,
Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner are under investigation by Durham Constabulary

But, right now, it feels like the political danger to the prime minister over all this has notched down yet further.

One more thing: Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner's careers remain in the hands of the Durham Constabulary, as they investigate a curry and beer they and others had in an MP's office in Durham just over a year ago.

Sir Keir and his lawyers are a confident as they can be that he, they, won't be fined. But they can't be certain.

And, speaking to Labour MPs, that has begun a hubbub of private chat about what might happen, if - if - this were to finish them both off, as they have both promised they will resign if fined.

The behaviour of our leaders when they were lecturing us about our behaviour during those Covid restrictions could still prompt more political twists to come.

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