Boris Johnson says he didn’t believe No. 10 events were illegal
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Boris Johnson has accepted that he misled MPs but insisted his partygate denials were made “in good faith” based on what he “honestly” knew at the time. The former prime minister said in his written evidence to the Privileges Committee inquiry, published this morning, that he “did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House”.
His 52-page defence dossier was released the day before his live grilling by the cross-party group of MPs, led by Labour’s Harriet Harman, in a hearing that could decide his political fate.
In his legal argument, Mr Johnson insisted that he corrected the record at the “earliest opportunity”.
He said: “So I accept that the House of Commons was misled by my statements that the rules and guidance had been followed completely at No 10.
“But when the statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.
“I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House on December 1 2021, December 8 2021, or on any other date. I would never have dreamed of doing so.”
He insisted that, other than the “assertions of the discredited Dominic Cummings”, his former chief aide, there is “not a single document that indicates that I received any warning or advice that any event broke” the rules.
Mr Johnson rejected the committee’s belief that the evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to the then-prime minister.
He called the inquiry’s allegation “illogical”, arguing that some of those who attended the events “wished me ill and would denounce me if I concealed the truth”.
He said: “Far from achieving a ‘cover-up’, I would have known that any deception on my part would lead to instant exposure. This would have been senseless and immediately self-defeating.”
He said it was “implausible” that he would have known the parties photographed and “immortalised” by his official photographer were rule-breaking.
It comes as Mr Johnson is due to face a televised questioning by the Privileges Committee tomorrow.
If he fails to convince the group of MPs he did not deliberately mislead the Commons, he could be found to have committed a contempt of Parliament.
A suspension of more than 10 days could result in a risky by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.
The full House of Commons would vote on any recommendations.
Rishi Sunak this morning said Tory MPs will get a free vote over his predecessor’s fate.
He told BBC Breakfast: “These are matters for Parliament and the House and MPs as individuals, rather than for Government. So that is the general process that we will follow.”
But the Prime Minister declined to reject claims from some of Mr Johnson’s allies that the process is a “witch hunt”.
They have questioned the role of Labour grandee Harriet Harman chairing the Tory-majority committee and the use of the Sue Gray report, now she plans to join Sir Keir Starmer’s office.
Mr Johnson received one of the 126 fines issued by Scotland Yard during its investigation into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall while he was prime minister.
An estimated £220,000 of taxpayers’ money has been allocated for Mr Johnson’s legal bills.
An interim report by the committee earlier this month said evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to the then-prime minister.
The Privileges Committee is considering at least four occasions when Mr Johnson may have misled MPs with his assurances that lockdown rules were followed.
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