Boris Johnson says ‘partygate’ untruths were honest mistake
Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged Tuesday that he misled Parliament about rule-breaking government parties during the coronavirus pandemic — but insisted he never intentionally lied.
Britain’s boisterous former leader is set to be grilled by lawmakers on Wednesday over whether he lied when he denied there had been parties in his Downing Street offices in violation of COVID-19 lockdown rules. If found to have lied deliberately, he could be suspended or even lose his seat in Parliament.
In a dossier of written evidence to the House of Commons Committee of Privileges, Johnson acknowledged that “my statements to Parliament that the Rules and Guidance had been followed at all times did not turn out to be correct.”
But he said his statements “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.”
The committee will quiz Johnson in person on Wednesday afternoon about “partygate,” the scandal over gatherings in government offices in 2020 and 2021 that breached the government’s pandemic restrictions. Police eventually issued 126 fines over the late-night soirees, boozy parties and “wine time Fridays,” including one to Johnson, and the scandal helped hasten the end of his three years in office.
When reports of the parties first emerged in late 2021, Johnson initially said that no rules had been broken. He later apologized and said there had been “misjudgments,” but still insisted that he believed he was attending work events, not parties.
Johnson’s lawyers say the committee must show that Johnson intended to mislead the House, rather than doing so unintentionally.
Johnson and his supporters also question the impartiality of Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who led an investigation into partygate, because she has now accepted a job as chief of staff to the leader of the opposition Labour Party.
If the committee finds Johnson in contempt, it could recommend punishments ranging from an oral apology to suspension or even expulsion from Parliament, or it could recommend no sanction at all. Any punishment would have to be approved by the House of Commons.
Johnson was forced to resign in July after a slew of scandals over money and ethics finally proved too much for Conservative colleagues, who quit the government by the dozens.
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