Johnson receives questionnaire, fears arise on Met officer replacement bias
He has 7 days to return the questionnaire.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received his questionnaire, which was sent by Scotland Yard, as part of the Met police probe into the partygate scandal.
Recently, Metropolitan police launched Operation Hillman - the government's probe into Johnson's party on Downing Street, where more than 50 people must answer questions about the Downing Street and Whitehall parties, according to Scotland Yard.
10 Downing Street confirmed Johnson's reception of the questionnaire, affirming that the questions will be responded to "as required."
Although the PM was adamant to make people believe he didn't break the law, the Sue Gray inquiry report exposed him, leading to him apologizing for attending a "Bring Your Own Booze" garden party which was organized by a private secretary, on 20 May, 2020.
Scotland Yard said the questionnaire "asks for an account and explanation of the recipient’s participation in an event” and “has formal legal status and must be answered truthfully.”
Recipients of the questionnaire will have 7 days to submit it.
Conservative members of the parliament, even loyalists, demanded that the PM be removed from his position if investigations reveal he committed a criminal offense. Nevertheless, Johnson is in denial that he has broken any law.
Read more: Johnson's future not so bright in light of 'partygate' probes
A biased replacement?
The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, filed her resignation and will be stepping down after a series of controversies that have damaged her (and the Met's) reputation. The decision came especially after London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that he had no confidence in her leadership.
Last week, the police watchdog found "disgraceful" misogyny, discrimination and sex harassment among some of the Met's police officers. The Met police, in addition, faces criticism for the murder of Sarah Everard by another police officer, Wayne Couzens.
Cressida said she'd "agreed to stay for a short period to ensure the stability of the Met".
Given that the Metropolitan police is investigating into Boris Johnson's partygate scandal, the British prime minister is facing pressure to stay away from any involvement in choosing the new head of the police department.
Parties opposing Johnson's administration said that the idea that Johnson may influence this decision would be a serious breach of ethical standards, since the chief that will come after Cressida Dick will be in charge of the investigation, which may come down to a biased conclusion if the chief were to be appointed by the PM.
Johnson could not only be fined, but also lose his premiership.
10 Downing Street said that the Tory's golden boy does not enjoy any official roles in appointing the Met police commissioner, but rather that is the job of his home secretary, Priti Patel, Johnson's close ally.
An investigation in 2020 found evidence that Patel has bullied staff at Downing Street, yet Johnson's backing kept her in her position despite demands that she step down.
A senior ally of Johnson's, whose name is unquoted, said that police should tread carefully on the investigation if it'd lead to Johnson's ousting. Labor leader Angela Rayner conveyed worry and unease about the issue: “This raises very serious questions about both the rule of law and basic standards of government,” she said.
“If the prime minister and his allies are going to publicly lean on the police to try to get him off the hook for an offence, he cannot then get involved in appointing a commissioner who would decide whether to charge him.
“The government should make clear that no one under investigation will be involved in any way, and the prime minister must say now if he will recuse himself or explain how public confidence will be maintained in a fair process.”
A Tory MP, Bob Neill deemed politically pressuring the Met as "completely inappropriate."
On the other hand, Liberal Democrats contend that under these pressures and conditions, the cross-party Commons home affairs committee should be the one replacing the commissioner.
A former Met police officer, Brian Paddick, said the only way to keep the process fair and square would be if Johnson is no longer in his position.
“It is inconceivable anyone will be appointed as commissioner of the Met without the approval of the PM,” Paddick said. “When you have a PM under criminal investigation, that is very problematic. I’m unconvinced that the PM giving his personal assurance that he will take no part will reassure the public.”