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Boris Johnson Battles at Party-Gate Hearing

boris johnson

Former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson faced the hearing to decide if he intentionally lied to the House, following party-gate in 2021.

This afternoon former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is facing live questioning from the Privileges Committee in relation to the comments he made over the infamous party-gate of 2021.

The Committee, which is made up of four Conservative MPs, two Labour MPs and one SNP MP, have been investigating the matter for ten months and is looking to determine whether Johnson intentionally misled parliament over the scandal.

Today, as part of his defence, Mr Johnson said:

“When I said that the rules and the guidance had been followed at Number 10…I’m here to say to you, hand on heart that I did not lie to the House when those statements were made. They were made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.

Talking about the photos that have been shared across the media of him attending these parties, the former Prime Minister said:

“These photos have now been churned through the media for more than a year, and it seems to be the view of the committee and, sadly, many members of the public that they show me attending rule-breaking parties when no one was social distancing.

They show nothing of the kind. They show me giving a few words of thanks at a work event for a departing colleague.”

The evidence provided by the Privileges Committee

Before Johnson faced live questioning from the committee, they published a 110-page dossier of evidence relating to their investigation. It was published to be used as a reference point throughout Johnson’s questioning.

Within this dossier, there are a number of screenshotted email exchanges between the likes of Johnson, Dominic Cummings and then-communications director, Lee Cain. In one email, Cain warns Johnson about the potential “comms risk” of having such events but his warnings were seemingly ignored.

The Committee also published evidence they had obtained through their own investigations, as well as through Sue Gray’s investigation. Within this evidence, there were excerpts from some of Johnson’s key aides of the time.

In one excerpt Cabinet secretary, Simon Case denies that he gave any assurance to Johnson that Covid rules were obeyed at all times at the parties. In another, Lee Cain says that Dominic Cummings had informed him that he had told the Prime Minister to not allow the parties to take place. However, Cain admitted that he couldn’t recall whether he had personally had a conversation about the issue with Johnson directly.

In another excerpt, an anonymous Number 10 official stated that Johnson had several opportunities to stop lockdown partying but turned a blind eye. As Johnson’s often walked past the press room, it would have been “impossible” for him not to know what was going on. This anonymous official said:

“He had the opportunity to shut them down but joined in, made speeches and had drinks with staff. He could have taken the issue up with Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary, to shut them down.

Reynolds also features heavily within the evidence. A written statement provided by him states that he told Johnson not to tell MPs that all guidance had been followed at the parties due to the nature of the working environment in Number 10.

How we got here

When the details of the 2021 Downing Street parties emerged, Johnson told MPs that all pandemic rules had been followed at the events. However, not long after, it emerged that this was incorrect and that those who attended the parties did indeed break the rules of the time.

An investigation from Sue Gray found that rule-breaking had been severe and widespread. As a result, 83 people were fined including Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister at the time of the scandal, and Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister.

The investigation by the Privileges Committee follows on from Gray’s and aims to determine whether Johnson intentionally mislead MPs, which would mean he would be in contempt of parliament.

Yesterday, he released a 52-page defence of his actions stating that he had not “intentionally or recklessly” misled MPs because his statements were based on what he believed at the time. As part of his defense, he also fired criticism in the direction of the committee, accusing it of being “highly partisan.”

Final thought

No matter what happens, it feels as if keeping Boris Johnson out of the limelight in British politics is an impossible task. As well as this investigation, Johnson has made headlines this week for leading a Tory rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Nothern Ireland.

With a final verdict from the Privileges Committee not expected until the summer, Johnson faces a couple of months in perjury as he awaits to find out if his political career is over. Mind you, with his record, it still wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he managed to cling to his career even if the verdict finds him to be in contempt of parliament.

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