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LONDON — Former prime minister Boris Johnson, who has already been fined once for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, faces fresh allegations that he broke more of the stringent regulations laid out by his own government during the height of the pandemic.
Thames Valley Police, which is responsible for the county of Buckinghamshire — home to Chequers, the prime minister’s official country manor — said Thursday night they are investigating claims of “potential breaches” of health protection regulations during June 2020 and May 2021 at the estate.
London’s Metropolitan police force also confirmed it was “in receipt of information” passed onto them from the Cabinet Office on May 19 relating to breaches of health regulations during the same time frame at Downing Street.
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British media reported that the Cabinet Office allegedly handed over Johnson’s official diary entries, showing visits by friends to the estate during the pandemic at a time when there were strict bans on visits between nonfamily members.
“Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry,” a Cabinet spokesman said in a statement Wednesday. “In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”
The new claims come amid an inquiry into “Partygate,” the name of the scandal that involved boozy government gatherings inside the prime minister’s office and residence of Downing Street at a time when lockdowns and social distancing were strictly enforced. The scandal was one of many that contributed to Johnson’s unraveling as Britain’s leader and led to his resignation last July after a calamitous three years in office.
Johnson’s team told the Times of London the allegations were “clearly” a “politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing.” The new allegations could delay the verdict in the inquiry over whether Johnson knowingly misled parliament, which lawmakers have been investigating for almost a year. A verdict is expected next month.
While being interrogated by members of Parliament during the inquiry at the House of Commons in March, Johnson said “hand on heart” that he did not lie to Parliament about the illegal government gatherings, defending the meetups as “essential for work purposes.” If Johnson is found to have lied he could face suspension and perjury charges.
While Johnson lost the confidence of his party and resigned, he remains a member of Parliament. Though his political future is uncertain at present, he has signaled that he may one day try to return as Britain’s leader.
Johnson is famed for having a loose relationship with the truth and frequently made the headlines at home and abroad during his tenure. When the Partygate scandal first came to light, the allegations prompted many in Britain to angrily recall the heartbreaking sacrifices they made during the pandemic as they adhered to the same rules that members of the government outlined and then defied.
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Britain was ravaged by the global health crisis, with at least 220,000 lives lost to the coronavirus. Johnson and his government have faced widespread criticism over their handling of the pandemic, which a public inquiry later determined was “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced.”
When Johnson was fined for his role in Partygate in April 2021, he became the first sitting prime minister in Britain’s history to have been found to have broken the law.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group of those who lost loved ones to the virus, slammed Johnson on social media following allegations of fresh rule-breaking.
“His legacy is one of lying, complete contempt for the ordinary people he was supposed to protect, and above all presiding over the deaths of nearly 200k people,” the group wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Karla Adam and William Booth contributed to this report.