In UK hearing, Boris Johnson fights for his political career, ‘I didn’t lie’ on blocking parties
A combative Boris Johnson fought for his political career on Wednesday as the former British prime minister said “with his heart” that he had not lied to parliament. Covid-19 lockdown parties in a hearing with members of parliament.
The Parliamentary Privileges Committee is investigating whether Johnson, who was ousted from Downing Street in September, deliberately or recklessly misled the House of Commons by making statements in which he said no rules had been broken at the gatherings. If the committee finds that Johnson intentionally misled lawmakers, he could be suspended. Suspensions of more than 10 days could trigger elections to remove him from parliament and end his political career.
The former leader, who called his second bid for prime minister last year a daring one, launched a lengthy defense at the hearing, saying his statements in parliament were made in good faith.
“I’m here to tell you, hand over heart, that I did not lie to the House,” said Johnson, who has accused the committee of bias. “When those statements were made, they were made in good faith and based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”
The so-called The partygate scandal led to Johnson’s ultimate downfallThroughout 2020 and 2021, he reportedly attended alcohol-fuelled gatherings in Downing Street, along with other senior government figures, in months when much of the rest of Britain was forced to stay at home.
Johnson was fined by police for attending a birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020, making him the first prime minister to break the law while in office. About 126 fines were imposed as a result of the gatherings.
Claims of lying to parties and repeated accusations that a Conservative lawmaker drunkenly assaulted two men eventually led to the resignation of most senior ministers in his government, including current prime minister Rishi Sunak, who was among the fines.
Thanking the staff
Harriet Harman, chair of the committee, said she would consider the evidence provided by Johnson and may take further evidence in due course. It is expected to report its findings later this year. He stressed the importance of ministers telling the truth, saying it went to the heart of how Britain’s parliamentary system works.
At the start of the hearing, Johnson actually swore on a bible before giving his evidence. He said the investigation found no evidence he had deliberately misled parliament, and said the commission had banned publication of a “substantial number of sections” on which he relied in his defence.
Pictured talking to colleagues over drinks in May, November and December 2020, Johnson said some of the meetings were “essential” to the running of the government. He said that it is necessary to be present at the events to thank the workers for their work.
“People who say we were partying on the block don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said, disgusted. He said he was “shocked” by the fines he had received and “surprised” by the number of other fines issued.
“I think basically what happened was that some evenings the events went on too long and I can’t apologize enough,” he said.
Britain had one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the world with more than 1,75,000 dead by the time Johnson said he would step down as prime minister.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK campaign group said Wednesday was a “new low” for Johnson and it was “painful” to see his usual deflection, self-pity and blaming everyone else.
Johnson admitted that he had inadvertently misled parliament, but that he believed what he said when he spoke.
“I didn’t think those events were a problem. Nobody had brought it up to me before as something that I should be concerned about,” Johnson said. “Call me mindless or forgetful, but I didn’t think it was against the rules.”