HomeCoronavirusKwasi Kwarteng: "I would never rule out" Boris Johnson leading the Tories...

Kwasi Kwarteng: “I would never rule out” Boris Johnson leading the Tories again

Boris Johnson may emerge unscathed from a televised questioning next week over claims he misled parliament about Partygate and returning to lead the Conservative Party, a former cabinet minister has said.

Kwasi Kwarteng, who was appointed business secretary by the former prime minister before a brief stint as chancellor under Liz Truss due to his notorious mini-budgethe said he would “never rule out” a return for Johnson to front-line politics.

The prediction came as a nine-month investigation into allegations that Johnson misled MPs by denying that Covid rules were broken at Number 10 during lockdown comes to a head, when he is brought before the privileges committee of all parties.

For up to four hours, Johnson will be questioned about what he knew about the law-breaking meetings, for which Scotland Yard handed out more than 100 fines, prompting mounting pressure among Conservative MPs for him to resign.

Before the confrontation, Johnson had been practicing for the televised hearing with his legal team, with a “bombshell” document of tens of pages prepared by his lawyers that will lay out his defense.

It will be sent to committee on Monday afternoon and is said to be a detailed factual rebuttal to the suggestion that he knowingly misled parliament.

The committee gave Johnson permission to release his own written evidence, which he also promised to release “as soon as possible” to conduct due diligence, such as redacting the names of officials.

Lord Pannick KC will be available to offer legal advice to Johnson at the hearing at 2:30pm on Wednesday. However, the former prime minister will have to personally answer all questions.

Kwarteng called Johnson an “enormously intelligent, sensitive and brilliant person” and suggested he might emerge unscathed from Wednesday’s hearing.

“I think it has been written off so many times,” the former foreign minister told GB News. “The last 25 years, the number of articles I’ve read saying it’s over, it’s over and it’s over.

“I think anything can happen. I think he could lead the match again, I think he is someone I would never write off or count on.”

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Kwarteng added that the Conservatives’ hope of winning the next general election “is based on only one fact, and that fact should be the unity of the Conservatives” and stressed that colleagues “have to back the prime minister… as one only”.

Johnson’s allies are testing support for him among their colleagues to gauge how many might vote against any sanctions recommended by the committee.

They fear the harshest penalty handed down could be a 10-day suspension of parliament, triggering a recall petition and a possible by-election in Johnson’s constituencies of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office minister, said on Sunday it was “standard practice” for so-called House business not to be flogged, meaning MPs are likely to get a free vote instead.

Johnson supporters have long sought discredit the investigation. Over the weekend, they stepped up their attacks on the inquiry that all MPs voted to start last April.

Lord Cruddas, a former Conservative party treasurer who was bestowed a peerage by Johnson in 2020, urged the privileges committee not to rely on a report on illegal parties compiled by civil servant Sue Gray as he later accepted a job offer from Labour.

The Conservative Post website also launched a petition, calling on the four Conservative MPs who make up the majority of committee members to stand down.

Over the weekend, Lord Greenhalgh, vice-chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, issued warnings that the “witch hunt” was evidence of a “Maccarthist approach to justice”.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “The privileges committee will vindicate Boris Johnson’s position. The evidence will show that Boris Johnson did not knowingly mislead Parliament.”

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