Partigit: MPs will share evidence ahead of Boris Johnson’s TV questioning

  • By Paul Seddon
  • Politics reporter

image source, EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock

MPs investigating Boris Johnson over Partigit’s party will release new documents at a later date, ahead of a televised hearing crucial to his political future.

The former prime minister is fighting accusations that he misled Parliament about the closing of parties in Downing Street during his tenure.

He admitted his initial assurances in 2021 that Covid rules were being followed exactly misled MPs.

But he says it was not intentional and the hearing will clear him.

The former prime minister, who was ousted from office last year after a series of scandals, faces possible arrest if MPs decide he deliberately misled them.

The House of Commons’ seven-member Privileges Committee is investigating whether what Johnson told Parliament prevented him from being properly held accountable.

At 14.00 GMT on Wednesday, the committee will have the opportunity to question him live on television, in a session that could last several hours.

He is expected to be flanked by members of his taxpayer-funded legal team, with whom he will be able to consult during the hearing. Johnson also hopes there will be some of his supporters in the hall.

However, he will have to answer questions himself, and will take an oath on the King James Bible before the hearing begins.

Prior to the hearing, at 09.00 GMT, the commission will publish a “core package” of evidence that is expected to be consulted during the hearing.

His lawyers distributed 46 WhatsApp messages between the former prime minister and five unnamed people.

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Watch: Boris Johnson’s remarks from Partygate Commons

Media stories about staff parties in Downing Street when Covid rules banned socializing indoors began to emerge in late 2021, and later became known as the Partygate scandal.

On several occasions afterwards, Johnson told the House of Commons that Covid rules were being followed in Downing Street.

But an investigation by senior official Sue Gray later found that the rule-breaking had occurred in multiple events, and 83 people, including Johnson himself, were handed out fines by police for breaking Covid laws.

The committee, which is chaired by veteran Labor MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, said earlier this month that breaches of pandemic guidelines were “obvious” to it at the time.

But that was rejected by Mr. Johnson on Tuesday in a 52-page document He put his defense before the hearing on television.

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In his introduction, he said his assurances to MPs that the lockdown rules were being followed were “in good faith”.

He added that he had not “intentionally or recklessly” misled MPs, nor would he have dreamed of doing so.

He said he did not consider at the time that the events he himself attended, including a birthday gathering in June 2020 at No. 10 for which he was fined, had violated the rules.

As for the other events he didn’t attend, he said his officials didn’t tell him they broke the rules — and it was reasonable for him to trust their accounts.

He also targeted the committee itself, accusing it of deviating from the precedents set by previous investigations.

image source, Cabinet office

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Boris Johnson was fined for attending a birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room in 2020

The committee decided that whether he intended to mislead MPs had nothing to do with deciding whether he prevented Parliament from doing its function, known as “contempt”.

But if they decide to commit a contempt offense, his intentions will be taken into account when deciding on any punishment they recommend.

Discovering that he deliberately misled the deputies is likely to result in the most severe punishment. Another option is that they conclude that he “recklessly” misled Parliament.

In his letter, the former prime minister criticized this logic, saying that the idea of ​​recklessly misleading MPs was a “completely new concept”.

The full House of Commons would have to agree to the committee’s final recommendations, as well as any penalties ranging from being ordered to apologize to being suspended from the House of Commons.

Conservative MPs will be given a free vote, meaning they will not be told how to vote by party managers.

If he is suspended for more than 10 days, it could result in a by-election in his constituency—although suspensions of this length have been rare in the past.

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