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It can’t be good for democracy that the police have so much power

Not long ago, Labor accused Boris Johnson of having a “big problem with women in public life”.

Now Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner face their own nightmare affecting women in high places.

The Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner is leading the inquiry into whether Johnson and others broke lockdown restrictions on parties in Downing Street and Whitehall

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The Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner is leading the inquiry into whether Johnson and others broke lockdown restrictions on parties in Downing Street and WhitehallCredit: PA
Durham Police Chief is investigating whether Starmer and Rayner broke Covid restrictions by hosting a curry beer night with Labor colleagues after a promotion in the city

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Durham Police Chief is investigating whether Starmer and Rayner broke Covid restrictions by hosting a curry beer night with Labor colleagues after a promotion in the cityCredit: PA:Press Association

Top police officers Jane Connors and Jo Farrell and Downing Street officer Sue Gray could unleash a political earthquake that would topple the Labor leadership – but also the Prime Minister.

While Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Connors and Durham Police Chief Constable Farrell continue to investigate whether Starmer, Rayner and Johnson broke lockdown laws, and Downing Street’s second permanent secretary, Sue Gray, prepares to do so to publish their report on the party in No. 10 during the pandemic, the three politicians are waiting.

What a humiliating mess for hypocritical Sir Keir, after all his moralizing about public probity.

He’s spent all year preaching about trust in politics and the importance of politicians doing the right thing when they let people down – only to be accused of not having the same high standards per se to create yourself.

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Police were reluctant to get involved, but Sir Keir stirred up such a storm that they bowed to pressure and are now investigating his beer-and-curry party.

The senior officials involved have vowed to keep politics out of any decision on issuing fines.

But how can they?

Sir Keir has said he will resign if he is fined. So the police know the consequences.

It could also trigger events to bring down other political figures, including the Prime Minister, and be the largest political deployment by our police force since the 1984 miners’ strike.

The police and other officials are not there to decide the fate of government or opposition leaders.

But that’s all a mess Sir Keir made.

He has positioned himself as the epitome of virtue on a mission to hold a “shameless” prime minister accountable.

He peppered his speeches with tearful examples of people forced by the lockdown to miss weddings and funerals while the Prime Minister and his aides karaoke and ate cake, and kept urging Johnson to step down.

Whatever he said, Ange repeated and adopted a sad expression as she asked how the Prime Minister has the nerve to stay in office.

But now the holy couple face a police probe into whether they too broke the rules by dining with colleagues at an Indian takeaway in Durham after a day on the promotional tour.

After making such a song and dance about Johnson’s failure to quit after receiving a stipulated sentence, they accept that if they too receive a fine, they have no choice but to quit.

Never has a cheap curry left such a bad taste.

The woman responsible for investigating the shenanigans at Durham Miners Hall in April 2021 is Jo Farrell – the first woman officer in the 180-year history of Durham Police.

She’s not to be trifled with – having once ended up in a brawl that rolled on the floor with a woman she’d arrested for a public order offense outside a pub.

Now she must decide whether Starmer and Rayner broke lockdown rules – and whether a breach was serious enough to warrant a fine.

HIGH Stakes

The stakes could hardly be higher.

If Starmer and Rayner settle on a principled position, Johnson’s position will become much more shaky.

Meanwhile, the investigation into claims of rulebreaking at No10 and Whitehall continues.

Downing Street is already the country’s most fined address for Covid infringements.

Scotland Yard has issued more than 100 fines to people working there, including Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Top police officer Connors has a long track record of ensuring law and order at major events – including London’s riotous Notting Hill Carnival in 2018.

Saved by his leadership in the Ukraine war and the results of the council elections that could have been far worse, Johnson has endured a stipulated sentence but is still sweating.

He doesn’t just have to worry about Connors.

Every evening, as he retires to his Downing Street quarters with his family, he knows there is a time bomb in the offices below in the form of the Sue Gray Report.

From their preliminary findings, we know that the former Downing Street director-general for decency and ethics takes a dim view of the alcoholic antics the Prime Minister turned a blind eye to.

Some say her full report, which will be withheld until the police investigation is completed, will be so damning that he will have to quit.

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Some will cheer when Starmer falls on his sword or Johnson is tripped.

But it can’t be good for democracy that the police have so much power.

Boris Johnson knows there is a time bomb in the form of the Sue Gray report

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Boris Johnson knows there is a time bomb in the form of the Sue Gray reportPhoto credit: Reuters

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DevanCole

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