MPs Left Puzzled At “Abba Party” Being Abandoned By Sue Gray Investigation
The alleged party in the flat above Downing Street the night Dominic Cummings was ousted was not fully investigated by Sue Gray (Alamy)
A number of MPs have expressed surprise after an alleged gathering in the flat above Downing Street during lockdown to celebrate Dominic Cummings' departure from Number 10 was not fully investigated by Sue Gray.
The report by the senior civil servant stated that Gray began an inquiry into the alleged Downing Street flat gathering on November 13, 2020 – the night Cummings left – but stopped once police began their own inquiry into the wider so-called ‘partygate’ saga.
A separate event took place downstairs in the Downing Street press office to mark the departure of Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain on the same day. In images attached to the Gray report, Boris Johnson was pictured giving a speech and raising a toast to Cain at the press office event, for which he did not receive a police fine. Gray did not investigate this event further following the conclusion of the Met inquiry.
Johnson is then believed to have headed upstairs to the Downing Street flat and attended what has been dubbed the “Abba party” after claims his wife Carrie was celebrating the removal of Cummings. A power struggle is believed to have played out between the prime minister's wife and Cummings, and the Abba song The Winner Takes It All was reportedly heard playing that night by others in the building.
According to the report, Gray “concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate” to re-open her inquiry into the flat event following the conclusion of the Met’s Operation Hillman, despite having learned that a number of special advisers attended the gathering where alcohol was available, and that it “carried on later into the evening”.
Spokespeople for the prime minister and for Mrs Johnson have both denied such an event took place. According to The Times, the prime minister has claimed he did not break the law that night because he was conducting an interview with Henry Newman, an adviser and friend of Carrie’s.
But following the publication of Gray’s finished report several MPs have questioned this explanation, as well as Gray's decision not to probe the event further.
“Can [Johnson] confirm he was only in his flat and he met Henry Newman to discuss a job, and can he confirm what the other special advisers were doing – were they part of the job interview as well?," Labour MP Catherine West asked in the Commons this afternoon.
The PM said the events of that evening were “extensively investigated”, and that he could not “improve on what Sue Gray has had to say”.
A meeting between Johnson and Gray was confirmed to have taken place ahead of the report’s publication this month, leading Labour former minister Wayne David to ask today if any requests were made “for sections to be removed or altered” from the document – specifically “the section related to the gathering in the Number 10 flat on November 13, 2020”.
Johnson said the first time he became aware of the contents of the report was when it landed on his desk this morning.
The SNP’s Joanna Cherry said she was “puzzled” as to why the “Abba party” wasn’t investigated either by Sue Gray or the police.
“Can I ask the Prime Minister what can be done by way of an independent investigation to assure me and my constituents that the Metropolitan police have not been nobbled?” she asked.
Johnson directed Cherry to the Gray report where he said she “will find the answer she needs”.
He also declined to offer further detail when the Labour MP Justin Madders asked him to confirm "everyone who was there that evening and there was no alcohol, no music, or anything else that people might reasonably conclude constituted a party”.
Gray’s report said that following the announcement of the departure of Cummings and Cain, “a meeting was held in the Number 10 flat from some time after 6pm to discuss the handling of their departure”.
She said five special advisers attended, and the PM joined them at 8pm, with food and alcohol made available.
But the civil servant added: “The information collected on this gathering is limited as the process of obtaining evidence had only just been commenced when the Metropolitan Police announced their own investigations, which included events on the 13 November 2020.
“At this point I stopped my investigation, given the need to avoid any prejudice to the police investigation.
“Following the Metropolitan Police announcement on 19 May 2022 I considered whether or not to conduct any further investigation into this event but concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate to do so.”
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