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GBR | Mar 22, 2023

Ex-PM Boris Johnson fights for career in testimony on lockdown parties

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LONDON (Reuters)

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak listens as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses his cabinet on the day of the weekly cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, Britain. (Photo: Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS)

Britain’s former Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face hours of hostile questioning today (March 22) about whether he misled parliament over rule-breaking COVID-19 lockdown parties at a hearing where he will be fighting for his political career.

Parliament’s Committee of Privileges is investigating whether Johnson, who was ousted from Downing Street in September, intentionally or recklessly misled parliament in a series of statements about the rule-breaking parties.

The former leader, who considered an audacious bid for a second stint as prime minister last year, is due to give evidence to the committee over several hours in a televised session.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to CEOs as he attends the Farnborough International Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain. (File Photo: Frank Augstein/Pool via REUTERS)

If the committee finds Johnson intentionally misled parliament then he could be suspended from the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament. Any suspension longer than 10 days could prompt a by-election in his constituency.

The so-called ‘partygate scandal’ ultimately contributed to the downfall of Johnson, after months of reports that he, alongside other senior government figures, had been present at alcohol-fueled gatherings in Downing Street during 2020 and 2021 when most of the rest of Britain was forced to stay at home.

The outcry and repeated allegations of lying eventually prompted the resignations of much of his top team of government ministers, including the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister’s Questions in the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. (File Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)

In an interim report published this month, lawmakers on the committee – made up of seven lawmakers with a majority of members from the governing Conservative Party – said Johnson may have misled parliament on four occasions and said the rule-breaking should have been “obvious”.

On Tuesday, Johnson said in written evidence to the committee he had misled parliament but insisted he “would never have dreamed” of doing so intentionally.

Johnson described some of the allegations he faced from the committee as illogical and absurd, accusing it of being highly partisan.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves his home, in London, Britain. (File Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

In passages which are likely to form part of his defence on Wednesday, Johnson said there was no evidence that indicated he intentionally misled parliament and he was not warned that the events broke any rules.

The committee said Johnson had submitted his evidence late, that it had contained errors and no “new documentary evidence”.

If the committee recommends any sanctions against Johnson they would have to be approved by parliament.

Sunak suggested this week that any vote on any sanctions against Johnson would be based on lawmakers’ own beliefs rather than along party lines.


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