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UK’s former PM Johnson accepts MPs misled over ‘partygate’

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson says he did not "intentionally" mislead parliament
Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson says he did not "intentionally" mislead parliament - Copyright AFP/File YASUYOSHI CHIBA
Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson says he did not "intentionally" mislead parliament - Copyright AFP/File YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Britain’s former prime minister Boris Johnson admitted on Tuesday that he misled parliament by telling MPs that parties at his Downing Street office did not break Covid lockdown rules.

But in evidence submitted to a powerful parliamentary committee probing his statements, he insisted that he acted in good faith.

Johnson, who was fined by police for breaking the rules he set the public, has previously apologised and corrected the parliamentary record after insisting that the gatherings were above board.

But he is due on Wednesday to go before the cross-party privileges committee of MPs probing the statements to determine whether he was in contempt of parliament.

“I accept that the House of Commons was misled by my statements that the rules and guidance had been followed completely at No. 10 (Downing Street),” said Johnson.

“But when the statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.

“I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House on 1 December 2021, 8 December 2021, or on any other date. 

“I would never have dreamed of doing so.”

Johnson’s 52-page submission is a defence of his position on the scandal, which contributed to his downfall last July in a ministerial rebellion.

It could determine his political future, despite talk that he is mulling a potential bid to return to high office.

– Sanction –

If the privileges committee rule Johnson was in contempt, MPs will get a vote on what sanction he could face, including suspension.

Any suspension over 10 sitting days could trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, where he would have to defend a slim majority of just 7,210.

Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Rishi Sunak, who was finance minister at the time and is now prime minister, received police fines for breaking Covid regulations, alongside dozens of staff.

Months of revelations about boozy office gatherings while the public kept strict social distancing — dubbed “partygate” — provoked public fury, particularly among relatives of Covid victims.

In his submission, the former premier repeated his apologies and that he accepted that what he told parliament “did not turn out to be correct”.

There was “no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled the House”, he added.

“There is not a single document that indicates that I received any warning or advice that any event broke or may have broken the rules or guidance. 

“In fact, the evidence before the committee demonstrates that those working at No. 10 at the time shared my honest belief that the rules and guidance were being followed.”

Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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