Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will provide evidence to defend his position on the “Partigate” scandal

  • Tony Bonsignor and Eon Wells Political reporter
  • BBC

image copyright Reuters

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reveals evidence, in his self-defense, to a parliamentary investigation, in the House of Commons, regarding accusations that he misled the House regarding parties that violated measures to confront the Corona virus, known as the “Partigate” scandal.

Johnson faces a televised hearing to present evidence before the Privileges Committee, in the House of Commons, on Wednesday.

The committee has not yet published its final report, but its latest update earlier this month indicated that Johnson may have misled the House of Commons several times.

Johnson denies the accusations.

Wednesday’s session, which may last 5 hours, will be an opportunity for Johnson to convince the seven members of the committee, from the various parties represented in the House of Commons, that he did not mislead the House in December 2021, especially when he told MPs that he had “received repeated assurances since the accusations arose, That there are no more parties, and that the measures to confront the Corona virus are not violated.

An investigation by the former head of the civil service, Sue Gray, last summer found evidence of repeated violations of the procedures, and that Johnson was among 83 people fined by the police for participating in parties that violated the sanitary isolation measures to confront the Corona virus.

And if Johnson fails to convince the committee of his point of view, the House of Commons may suspend his membership, and he may also lose his seat, and elections will be held to fill the seat in his constituency, if the decision to suspend his membership exceeds 10 days.

But MPs must vote to approve any sanctions against Johnson for them to take effect.

Sources close to Johnson said that he will submit an integrated file that includes evidence that he received statements from employees at the Prime Ministry headquarters, that there were no breaches of the measures to confront the Corona virus.

The Sunday Times quoted one of the sources as saying that the letters say “clearly” that Johnson told Parliament what he knew, and what he had received from the staff, at the Prime Minister’s residence, at No. 10 Downing Street, indicating that he was forced to rely on their statements, because he did not He was present during some of these occasions.

The newspaper also added that his defense may repeat accusations of bias against the former head of the civil service, Sue Gray, whose investigation found repeated breaches of anti-Corona measures.

Sue Gray resigned from her position, and Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, offered her the job of his chief adviser, which angered some of Johnson’s allies.

The Labor Party said that it would provide all information in this regard to the Advisory Committee in the House of Commons, according to the procedures followed.

But Minister Jeremy Quinn said that the job offered to Sue Gray may have constituted a breach of the legal procedures, which require obtaining parliamentary approval first, before announcing the job offer.

Free vote

Sources at the government headquarters said that imposing any sanctions on Johnson would be the responsibility of the House of Commons, and therefore the members of the House would vote freely without commitment to the position of the ruling Conservative Party, which means that they would not be subject to the rules of party discipline if they violated the party’s policy in this regard.

This means that the ruling Conservative Party will not oblige its deputies to vote on a specific decision, and will leave them complete freedom in this vote, unlike what happened during the vote to suspend Owen Patterson’s membership in late 2021, when Johnson was prime minister.

The government tried to prevent the suspension of Patterson’s membership in the House of Commons, but it later retracted, after a political controversy, forcing Patterson to resign from the membership of the House.

At that time, Johnson faced criticism from many of his party’s deputies, because of his support for Patterson, amid accusations of “corruption” from the Labor Party, and a few weeks later, the first reports about the “Partigate” scandal appeared.

The Patterson crisis was the first episode in a series of political crises, which eventually led to Johnson’s resignation as prime minister, and Johnson then admitted that he had caused a catastrophe because of his handling of the crisis.

Johnson’s spokesman said the Privileges Committee would clear his name, saying, “The evidence will show that Boris Johnson did not deliberately deceive Parliament.”

The Privileges Committee, made up of 7 members, from the various parties represented in the House, is investigating accusations that Johnson deceived the House of Commons, regarding parties that broke the restrictions that were imposed during the ban period due to the Corona virus.

The latest update published by the committee earlier this month indicated that Johnson may have misled the House of Commons several times. She said she had found evidence that “seriously suggests” that any breaches of quarantine measures would have been “obvious” to Johnson.