"The guidance does not say you can have a thank you party and as many people as you want"
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that he did not deliberately mislead the House over Covid lockdown parties in Downing Street is being torn apart in the early stages of questioning by the Privileges Committee.
Johnson is appearing before the committee today, as he seeks to defend himself against allegations that he deliberately misled the House.
In the early stages of proceedings, Johnson made an opening statement in which he claimed, ‘hand on heart, I did not lie to the House’. Johnson’s defence is that he accepts he misled Parliament but acted in good faith.
He also told the committee that Dominic Cummings “has every motive to lie” about what happened during Partygate. He also said that Harriet Harman, the chair of the committee is biased against him.
The questioning began with Sir Bernard Jenkin asking Johnson about Lee Cain’s leaving party on 13th November, with photos showing the former Tory leader with a raised glass in his hand, surrounded by staff around a table packed with booze. Jenkin asked whether Johnson accepted there was no social distancing, despite PM saying he’d stuck to guidance.
Johnson insisted that when he ‘looked at that group it did not occur to me for one moment we were in breach of guidance’ and went on to add: “You can’t expect human beings in an environment like No10 to have an invisible electrified fence around them, they will occasionally enter each other’s orbit.”
Jenkin replied: “Well if you’d said all that to the House at the time we probably wouldn’t be sitting here. But you didn’t.”
He went on to add: “The guidance does not say you can have a thank you party and as many people as you want”.
Johnson conceded that social distancing at the event was ‘imperfect’.
It’s only been an hour and Johnson’s defence is falling apart already.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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