Boris Johnson vows 'hand on heart' he did not mislead Commons over partygate | The SunMarch 22, 2023
BORIS Johnson today pleaded "hand on heart" that he did not lie to MPs about illegal lockdown parties in No10.
The ex-PM is currently giving evidence in an explosive four hour hearing of the Privileges Committee.
Before an audience of MPs and journalists, he's desperately trying to convince the committee's seven members he didn't deliberately lie when he told the Commons multiple times that rules were always followed in Downing Street.
The showstopper session opened this afternoon with BoJo swearing on King James' bible that he'll only tell the committee the truth.
The ex-PM then launched into an opening statement, where he pleaded his case.
"There were a number of days over a period of 20 months when gatherings took place in Downing Street that went past the point where they could be said to be necessary for work purposes," he said.
"That was wrong. I bitterly regret it."
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Mr Johnson added: "I apologise for inadvertently misleading this House but to say that I did it recklessly or deliberately is completely untrue as the evidence shows.
"People who say that we were partying during lockdown simply have no idea what they are talking about."
The ex-PM accused his former aide turned arch nemesis Dominic Cummings of being the only No.10 staffer to accuse him of purposely lying.
He slammed Mr Cummings as having "every motive to lie".
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And he pointed to official No.10 photos of the infamous lockdown parties as evidence he can't have known they were rule breaking.
Boris said: "To say that we would have held illicit events in No.10 while allowing these events to be immortalized by an official photographer is staggeringly implausible."
The ex-PM insisted social distancing rules were always followed in Downing Street "to the best of our ability".
But he added it was "impossible" to always maintain social distancing in No.10.
"It was always the case the confines of No.10 were going to make it impossible the whole time to enforce total social distancing, as it were with an electric forcefield around every individual," he said.
BoJo went on to justify his attendance at boozy leaving dos for staff.
"I will believe until the day I die that it was my job to thank staff for what they had done."
He argued this was particularly the case "during a crisis like Covid which kept coming back and seemed to have no end".
Who sits on the privileges committee?
The Commons Privileges Committee comprises seven members. It’s temporary Chair, Harriet Harman, is a Labour MP. She was appointed after former Chair Sir Chris Bryant recused himself from the role. The committee’s cross-party split reflects the make-up of the Commons.
- Harriet Harman – Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham
- Yvonne Fovargue – Labour MP for Makerfield
- Andy Carter – Tory MP for Warrington South
- Sir Charles Walker – Tory MP for Broxbourne
- Alberto Costa – Tory MP for South Leicestershire
- Sir Bernard Jenkin – Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex
- Allan Dorans – SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
He also slammed claims the famous birthday gathering in No.10 was an obvious breach of rules.
The event, which included snacks and cake, was probed by the Met Police and resulted in a fine for Rishi Sunak and his predecessor.
Mr Johnson's wife Carrie and No.10 flat interior designer Lulu Lytle famously attended the do.
During the hearing the ex-PM insisted he couldn't have known it was illegal because his press team briefed the event to The Times newspaper days after it took place.
Boris said: "On my birthday, I came back from a long external visit. I thought (the gathering) was a reasonably necessary for work purposes because I'm standing at my desk surrounded by officials who asked to come and wish me happy birthday.
"I only recently recovered from Covid and it seemed to me to be a perfectly proper thing to do."
Mr Johnson also hit out at the Privileges Committee, accusing its investigation of being "extremely peculiar".
He argued the panel don't have a shred of documentary evidence he was warned that rules were being broken.
And he suggested the scope of the probe has been unfairly expanded to investigate whether he lied out of recklessness rather than just outright deliberately.
"It would be one thing if the Committee had come here and said here are the emails or WhatsApps that show you were warned about rule-breaking before you made your statements to the House," Boris said.
"You haven't got any such evidence because that never happened. But if you now say instead that it must have been obvious that we were going against the rules and guidance then let's be clear about what you are saying."
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After today's mega showdown, the committee will take time to consider Boris' oral evidence, as well as submissions from dozens of No.10 staff members and aides.
If he's found guilty, the ex-PM faces being suspended from the Commons and could even be booted out as an MP all together.
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