Partygate: Boris Johnson pleads good faith before his hearing before the commission of inquiry
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Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pleaded good faith on Tuesday while acknowledging that he misled Parliament about the parties held in Downing Street during the anti-covid lockdown, on the eve of his hearing before a committee parliamentary inquiry.
His defence, in the form of detailed 110-point, 52-page “written evidence,” was released on Tuesday.
“I take full responsibility for everything that happened under my watch” , in Downing Street, he starts in the introduction.
Pushed to resign this summer by a succession of scandals, first and foremost the “partygate”, Boris Johnson is under investigation which, if it concludes that the former head of government lied to Parliament, risks cost him his seat as an MP or even his political career.
The investigation must determine whether he deliberately lied in the House of Commons, in particular when he claimed before MPs in December 2021 that “the rules were always respected.”
He will be heard by the commission of inquiry on Wednesday afternoon, a hearing scheduled to last several hours.
“It is now clear that over several days, there were rallies” in Downing Street, he acknowledges in his defense. “They should never have taken place,” he continues, apologizing to the British.
“It is of course true that my statements in Parliament that the rules had been followed at all times do not turned out to be incorrect and I take this opportunity to apologize to Parliament for that,” he wrote.
“I recognize that the House of Commons has been misled by my statements,” admits Boris Johnson. “But when these statements were made, they were made in good faith and based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”
“I did not intentionally or recklessly deceived parliament on December 1, 2021, December 8, 2021, or any other date,” he wrote.
In a preliminary report released in early March, the commission said that the elements she gathered 'strongly suggest' that breaches of covid rules had to be 'obvious' to Boris Johnson.
The former Conservative leader has already been fined by the police. Rishi Sunak, who was then finance minister but who has since become prime minister, was also fined for having taken part in a rally in Downing Street.
Cascading revelations for months , had angered the British, especially relatives of Covid victims.
The remarks that the commission of inquiry will scrutinize
The commission of inquiry which hears Boris Johnson on Wednesday in the scandal of “Partygate”, these illegal parties organized in Downing Street during the pandemic of the COVID-19, will examine all the statements of the former Prime Minister, to determine if he knowingly lied to Parliament.
If it establishes that Boris Johnson lied to MPs, he could be suspended which would seriously threaten his political future.
Here are the main points that will be scrutinized.
December 1, 2021
“All instructions were fully followed at No. 10 (Downing Street),” Johnson told the House of Commons, his first statement on the case, after his parties were revealed by the Daily Mirror > the day before.
December 8, 2021
“Since these accusations emerged, I have been assured on several occasions that there were no parties and that no rules related to Covid were broken”, he insists again, in reaction to the publication by the ITV channel of a damning video of its press officer at the time, Allegra Stratton.
In this video, she is filmed rehearsing answers to be given to the media if asked about the case, and laughing at claims that Downing Street staff partied the previous Christmas. She subsequently resigned.
In front of the deputies, Boris Johnson said he was “furious” with the content of this video. A few days later, the Prime Minister announces the establishment of an investigation into the scandal, which will be led by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
April 12, 2022
Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, along with his finance minister Rishi Sunak, are fined for attending a party to mark Mr Johnson's birthday in June 2020.
“I must say in all honesty, that at the time it did not occur to me that this could have been a violation of the rules”, he defends himself.
May 25, 2022
The report of the investigation led by Sue Gray is published, and describes, without concealing any details, the parties organized in Downing Street during the pandemic.
If Boris Johnson says he “bitterly regrets” the image given of his teams in the report, he refuses to resign despite calls to do so from the opposition.
“It did not occur to me to mind that I was doing something other than what I thought was my duty as prime minister during a pandemic, and that's why I did it”, he defends himself to justify his presence at severance drinks for colleagues .
“When I came before this chamber and said in all sincerity that the rules and guidelines were followed all the time – that was what I believed to be true. This was certainly the case when I attended rallies to say goodbye to civil servants, ”he said again in Parliament.
Boris Johnson finally resigned on July 7, 2022.