Love him or hate him, everyone knows that Boris Johnson thrives on being the center of attention.
Next Wednesday evening, from 2pm, the former Prime Minister will return to the limelight in Westminster in a high-stakes appearance that will be a popcorn moment for viewers.
Live on TV, members of the cross-party privilege committee he will ask Mr. Johnson for four hours, whether or not he deliberately lied when he told the House of Commons that he had no knowledge of parties breaking the rules in No 10 during the COVID-19 emergency.
If MPs find him guilty, they will recommend punishment, which could see him lose his parliamentary seat representing Uxbridge, a disaster that would surely end the political career of a man who would become prime minister again.
Technically, MPs have to decide whether Mr Johnson was in contempt of the House by lying about the parties and then not correcting his words.
It is a trial by its peers.
First, the seven members of the Privileges Committee. Then, if the punishment is recommended, the whole House of Commons will say whether to impose it or not.
The commission’s work has already caused a stir in Westminster.
Chris Bryant, the senior Labor MP who served as chairman, stood aside, or rather “recused” himself as the jargon says, because of his previous criticism of Mr Johnson.
MPs were reluctant to let the Tory rank-and-file, unmarried Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin, take the post, so Harriet Harman, the former Labor MP leader, was chosen to take the chair.
Meanwhile, the two Conservatives on the committee, first-time MP Andy Carter and Alberto Costa, left junior government posts to keep their seats there. The other members are Allan Dorans (SNP), Yvonne Fovargue (Labour) and Sir Charles Walker (Conservative). The four Conservatives give them a majority on the seven-member committee.
They are taxpayers Mr. Johnson paying to hire his own lawyers on behalf of the government.
A strong circumstantial case against Mr. Johnson
David Pannick, an independent member of the House of Lords, called the committee’s actions “grossly inappropriate” and “fundamentally flawed”.
His main argument was that the key issue should not be whether Mr Johnson misled the House, but whether there was an “intent to mislead”.
Lord Pannick KC’s other clients include Sir Philip Green, Shamima Begum and Manchester City FC.
MPs are members of parliament who govern their own affairs and have dismissed Lord Pannick’s argument.
However, there will be plans to make the statements Mr Johnson made during the grilling next week.
There is a strong circumstantial case against Mr. Johnson. He has repeatedly denied knowing about parties and rule-breaking during the 2020 and 2021 COVID restrictions, even though he himself announced many regulations.
He later accepted a fixed sentence from the Metropolitan Police and paid a fine for attending a party on his birthday.
As Sue Gray’s report into partygate before it, the interim report ahead of this month’s privileges committee hearing notes that “workplace drinking culture continued in some No 10 locations after the start of the COVID restrictions” including “birthday parties”. and leave the parties to the officials.’
The commission’s report contains pictures showing more alcohol and more crowds than the pictures released by Ms Grey.
Boris Johnson was re-elected to stand in Uxbridge at the next general election after suggestions of a safer seat
The senior official warned that Boris Johnson was a “distrustful figure” during the COVID pandemic
However, when Mr Johnson was asked about the Commons parties in the final months of 2021 after the stories broke in the media, he repeatedly denied them.
He told the House on December 1, 2021: “All drivers were fully tracked on No. 10.”
He stated on December 8: “Guidelines were followed and rules were followed at all times…I have been assured time and time again since these allegations came to light that there was no bias and no COVID rules were broken.”
The committee wants answers on four points
Interim report of the committee it’s a rap sheet that’s going to face it.
The committee wants answers to four points.
Did Mr. Johnson mislead, that is, when he lied when he said “No rules were broken” and that he “had no knowledge of the encounters”?
Was it true when he said that he should rely on officials’ assurances that no rules had been broken and wait for Sue Gray’s report to find out whether or not rule-breaking parties had occurred?
The commission has taken written evidence from 23 people involved and has already concluded that “violations [COVID] guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson during his time in the meetings.”
Lying is a very sensitive issue at Westminster. Many citizens may think that this is what politicians do all the time. But accusations of lying are officially termed “unparliamentary language”, and one MP is not allowed to directly accuse another.
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The assumption is that a member of “honor or good standing” would not lie and if they inadvertently tell a falsehood, they will correct the official record.
Recently, government ministers have addressed their statements in Hansard more than a hundred times a year.
The former Prime Minister will play against the dwindling group of Boris loyalist politicians
No one knows how tough the questioning will be on Wednesday or how Mr Johnson will react.
His tactic is always to try to flatter his audience and make a performative joke when he’s in a tight spot.
As Stanley recalled his admiring father, he worked in the school play at Eton: “Boris was playing the leading role. It was quite obvious that he hadn’t studied the part, but he flew it beautifully, he almost invented a sequence . Shakespeare’s perfect pentameters.”
Mr. Johnson’s appearances in front of more discerning audiences have not gone down well.
When asked if he was a habitual liar, he simply blurted out, “I don’t agree with that conclusion.”
He was forced to step down as prime minister last summer after a member of the MPs’ Liaison Committee said it was “game over”.
Sir Max Hastings, who encouraged Mr Johnson when he was working for him at The Daily Telegraph now he hates it.
He stated: “People who know Boris like him the least.”
Mr. Johnson has never been a “House of Commons man,” but MPs cannot fail to know him well by now.
However he is dealt with by the committee, Mr Johnson will be pitted against a smaller group of Boris politicians and party members and his champions in the Tory media, who they say have already been unfairly brought down by a left-wing partisan conspiracy. .
Unlike Mr Johnson, he catastrophically tried to use the whip on his MPs to save his friend Owen Patterson from a 30-day suspension for corruption, Rishi Suna says that he will not stand in the way.
Mr Johnson’s fate may well hang on how Conservative MPs jump, in committee and then in the House as a whole.
Psephologist Peter Kellner has only one piece of advice for conservatives who want Boris back: “don’t” – in their own interest.
The inquiry is unlikely to drive stakes at the heart of Mr Johnson’s political career
Analyzing a Delta opinion poll, Mr Kellner said Mr Johnson is less popular than Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer, and as unpopular with the lowly Conservative Party, meaning he would not cause a rebound with him.
However, the odds must be low that the lying inquiry will eventually lead to the heart of Mr Johnson’s political career through David Cameron’s MPs Recovery Act.
First, the committee would have to recommend a suspension of more than 10 meeting days as punishment, then a majority of the House would have to approve it. Only then should a call request be made within his range. Next, 10% of Uxbridge voters would have to sign it to oust him and force a by-election.
This sequence is of high order.
The bet is that the “greased pig”, as David Cameron called him, will slip back past his political killers and continue to draw attention to himself.