a defiant Boris Johnson is preparing an extraordinary televised defense of its actions during the Partygate scandal, as its allies this weekend accused the parliamentary inquiry into the matter of relying on flimsy evidence collected by a former official recruited by the Labor Party.
With a potentially explosive appearance in the Commons’ privileges committee scheduled for Wednesday, the Observer may reveal that the former prime minister’s legal team intends to release written evidence, including new witness statements, supporting Johnson’s claim that he did not knowingly mislead MPs about the lockdown parties, as well as examples of the advice given to you at the time.
The document, overseen by his lead attorney, David Pannick, will be released before Wednesday’s five-hour hearing. He is expected to warn the all-party committee that he will, in fact, destroy parliamentary precedents if he sanctions Johnson, who the document said gave his honest views at the time and corrected the record when he learned of the wrongdoing.
His allies also argue that the committee’s interim report, which found there was significant evidence he misled MPs about lockdown parties, referred broadly to an earlier Partygate investigation led by former senior official Sue Grey. Gray has since been recruited as Keir Starmer’s chief of staff., although he still has to start in the position. Johnson’s allies argue that Gray’s report is mentioned more than 30 times in the interim report and that he provided the “central evidentiary base” for the committee’s work.
The committee insists, however, that all the evidence it has amassed has been collected entirely independently of the investigations conducted by Gray.
Committee sources say Johnson has already been provided with the “full stack” of uncensored evidence that he has collected during his investigations over the past 10 months, including the statements of 23 witnesses, with the names of the people who gave them. . Most of the names were not published in the interim report earlier this month, which instead referred to the 10th officials and others without specifying who was in the majority.
All statements provided to the committee were taken under “honesty oaths.” Johnson also received WhatsApp messages and other evidence provided to the committee by the government, as well as photos of meetings, including those he attended. A committee source said: “He has everything the committee has, including all the names.”
There is also speculation this weekend that Johnson may be using his resignation honors list to reward those who helped him through the investigation, an allegation his team rejects as “completely false.” He Observer he has been told that several figures who have appeared in the investigation also appeared on the draft version of Johnson’s honor roll.
include martin reynoldshis former principal private secretary, who sent a widely shared email urging staff to “bring your own drink” to an event on May 20, 2020. Others include former chief of staff dan rosenfieldas well as media advisers Jack Doyle and Guto Harri. It is also said that on her original list was former Interior Minister Priti Patel. She said last week that there was a “collusion culture” surrounding the privilege committee investigation, and that members had already criticized Johnson.
Wendy Chamberlain, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Boris Johnson’s honors roll is nothing more than a reward for his failure, his lies and his corruption. No prime minister, let alone one who disgraced himself as Johnson did, should be allowed to use the honors roll for his own benefit. The allegation that key figures were strategically chosen to help Johnson through the investigation must be urgently investigated. Sunak must not allow Boris Johnson to continue to poison the well of British politics.”
Johnson’s allies say they are now “very confident” that he can show that he did not knowingly mislead the House of Commons about what is known as party gate. They think he can show that he took advice from the civil service before telling MPs in December 2020 that there was no rule breaking in Downing Street. Written evidence from him will also state that when he discovered that the rules had been violated, he corrected the record.
A spokesperson for Johnson said: “The committee will vindicate Boris Johnson’s position. The evidence will show that Boris Johnson did not knowingly mislead parliament. Despite a 10-month investigation, the privileges committee has not produced a single piece of evidence showing that Boris Johnson knowingly misled parliament. The committee will exonerate Boris Johnson of any contempt of parliament.”
On Wednesday, the seven members of the committee – four Conservative, two Labor and one SNP MPs – will meet from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. to prepare to question Johnson, before the main hearing begins. A Commons committee room has been reserved from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and the entire session will be televised. The committee is expected to focus on why Johnson did not know that the parties he attended violated the very Covid rules he told the country to obey in daily news conferences. MPs will also want to know why, after making statements to parliament insisting there was no breaking of the rules, he did not return sooner and more regularly to correct the record.
Committee chair Harriet Harman will open the session, before Johnson makes his opening remarks and swears an oath of honesty, before all MPs have time to ask questions.
Johnson will bring his lawyer, Lord Pannick, but will not be able to answer questions on his behalf. However, Johnson may ask you for advice during the hearing or before answering questions himself.
Sources close to the committee said Johnson would do well to repeat allegations recently made on his behalf by his spokesman, that Gray’s appointment as Starmer’s chief of staff showed the entire investigation process was “impeachment on an outrageous level.” of partiality”.
The committee’s damning interim report earlier this month included comments from a witness saying the then-prime minister told a packed No 10 meeting in November 2020, when strict Covid restrictions were in place, that “this is probably the Less socially distanced gathering in UK right now”.
He also included comments from a No. 10 official in April 2021, six months before the first match reports surfaced, saying a colleague was “worried about leaks of PM taking a piss, and to be fair, I don’t think be unjustified”. ”.
If the committee finds that Johnson misled parliament, it could lead to his suspension, if the committee’s finding passes in a House of Commons vote. Under parliamentary rules, an exclusion of 10 days or more would mean Johnson’s constituents could file a recall petition to remove him as their MP. Last week he was re-elected as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.