Boris Johnson is risking his political future on the gallows at Partygate. With millions of Britons as witnesses on television, the former prime minister has found himself in the position of demonstrating before a parliamentary committee that he did not deliberately lie in the House of Commons when he repeatedly said that the Covid rules had been respected "in all moment" in Downing Street.
"With my hand on my heart, I did not lie before Parliament," Johnson declared, his face serious, reading verbatim from the document prepared by his lawyer Lord David Pannick. Johnson assured that his statements before the House of Commons were made "in good faith" and that he himself corrected them, apologized and assumed "full responsibility" months later after the internal investigation and the police investigation of Partygate.
The president of the Privileges Committee, Labor Harriet Harman, recalled from the outset the "value of the truth in the functioning of a parliamentary democracy." Harman recalled how Johnson faces a possible sanction (including temporary suspension as an MP) if the committee determines that the former premier "intentionally" or "recklessly" lied before Parliament.
Johnson appeared before the seven members of the Committee on Privileges (four of them Conservatives) and was forced to listen firsthand to his own repeated statements in December, and then to swear before the Bible that he will tell "the truth and all the truth."
In his defense arguments contained in 52 pages, Johnson claimed to have acted "in good faith" when he made those statements, although he acknowledged having "accidentally" led Parliament to error. The former premier assured that he had not received any written recommendation warning that the rules could be violated in what he considered "work meetings" within Downing Street.
"It is now clear that on a number of occasions there were encounters at number 10 which, however they started, went beyond what was reasonably necessary for the job," Johnson admitted. "Those events should not have happened, it fills me with sadness to know that they happened and I regret that they did."
Scotland Yard opened an investigation and ultimately imposed a total of 126 fines, including a £50 fine on Johnson himself, for breaking Covid rules. The former prime minister retaliated by claiming that the time he was fined, on the occasion of his birthday in June 2020, it was not properly a "party", there was not even a cake and they did not sing "Happy Birthday" ".
The photos of that "meeting", with Johnson raising a can and the table full of drinks and food, was provided as evidence to the members of the committee, who expressed their surprise that Johnson did not prohibit this type of meeting simply common sense and in compliance with the social distancing imposed by his own Gonierno, and without the need for his advisers to remind him.
Former Cabinet Secretary Simon Case testified before the Privileges Committee that he did not receive any order from the prime minister to ban such social gatherings while the Covid restrictions were in force. Former personal secretary Martin Reynolds acknowledged for his part that he came to recommend Johnson not to say before Parliament that "the rules were respected at all times."
Johnson said that prior to the internal investigation by senior official Sue Gray, there was "a universal belief in number 10 that the rules had been followed." The former premier said he felt "deeply dismayed" when the police investigation ended with the imposition of dozens of fines for the excesses committed in those "meetings": "I understand the public's anger and I will continue to apologize for what happened under my watch."
The special session of four was however suddenly interrupted by a vote in the plenary session of Parliament on one of the points contained in the Windsor Agreement: the so-called Stormont Brake, which would grant powers to the Northern Ireland local Assembly to to be able to block future community laws in their territory. Johnson asked permission to go vote with the seven members of the committee who will make his decision public in the first half of May.
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