Boris Johnson makes last-ditch bid to discredit Partygate probe

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A defiant Boris Johnson is preparing an bonzer televised defence of his actions during the Partygate scandal, arsenic his allies this play accused the parliamentary enquiry into the matter of relying connected anemic grounds compiled by a erstwhile civilian servant recruited by the Labour party.

With a perchance explosive quality astatine the Commons privileges committee owed connected Wednesday, the Observer tin uncover that the erstwhile PM’s ineligible squad intends to people written evidence, including caller witnesser statements, supporting Johnson’s assertion that helium did not knowingly mislead MPs implicit lockdown parties – arsenic good arsenic examples of the proposal helium was fixed astatine the time.

The document, overseen by his pb counsel David Pannick, is acceptable to beryllium published earlier Wednesday’s five-hour hearing. It is expected to pass the cross-party committee that it volition efficaciously beryllium ripping up parliamentary precedent should it authorisation Johnson, who, the papers volition say, gave his honorable views astatine the clip and corrected the grounds erstwhile helium learned of wrongdoing.

His allies besides reason that the committee’s interim report, which recovered determination was important grounds helium misled MPs implicit lockdown parties, referred extensively to an earlier Partygate probe led by the erstwhile elder civilian servant, Sue Gray. Gray has since been recruited arsenic Keir Starmer’s main of staff, though she has yet to commencement successful the post. Johnson’s allies reason that Gray’s study is mentioned much than 30 times successful the interim study and that it supplied the “core evidential basis” of the committee’s work.

The committee insists, however, that each the grounds it has amassed has been compiled wholly independently from the investigations conducted by Gray.

Committee sources accidental that Johnson has already been provided with the “full stack” of uncensored grounds it has compiled during its investigations implicit the past 10 months, including 23 witnesser statements, with the names of the radical who gave them. Most of the names were not published successful the interim study earlier this month, which alternatively referred to No 10 officials and others without specifying who astir of them were.

All of the statements provided to the committee were taken nether “oaths of honesty”. Johnson has besides been sent WhatsApp messages and different grounds supplied to the committee by the government, arsenic good arsenic photographs of gatherings, including ones helium attended. A committee root said: “He has got everything that the committee has including each the names.”

There is besides speculation this play that Johnson whitethorn beryllium utilizing his resignation honours database to reward those who person helped him done the enquiry – an allegation his squad rejects arsenic “completely untrue”. The Observer has been told that respective figures who person featured successful the enquiry besides appeared successful the draught mentation of Johnson’s honours list.

They see Martin Reynolds, his erstwhile main backstage secretary, who sent a wide shared email urging unit to “bring your ain booze” to 1 lawsuit connected 20 May 2020. Others see erstwhile main of unit Dan Rosenfield, arsenic good arsenic media advisers Jack Doyle and Guto Harri. Also said to person been successful his archetypal database is erstwhile location caput Priti Patel. She said past week that determination was a “culture of collusion” astir the privileges committee inquiry, and that members of it had already been captious of Johnson.

Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat main whip, said: “Boris Johnson’s honours database is thing much than a reward for his failure, lies and corruption. No premier minister, fto unsocial 1 who disgraced himself arsenic Johnson did, should beryllium capable to usage the honours database for their ain gain. The allegation of cardinal figures being strategically chosen to assistance Johnson done the enquiry indispensable beryllium urgently investigated. Sunak indispensable not let Boris Johnson to proceed poisoning the good of British politics.”

Johnson allies accidental they are present “very confident” that helium tin beryllium that helium did not knowingly mislead the House of Commons implicit what has go known arsenic Partygate. They judge that helium tin beryllium that helium received civilian work proposal earlier telling MPs successful December 2020 that nary rules were breached successful Downing Street. His written grounds volition besides assertion that, erstwhile helium discovered rules had been broken, helium corrected the record.

A spokesperson for Johnson said: “The committee volition vindicate Boris Johnson’s position. The grounds volition amusement that Boris Johnson did not knowingly mislead parliament. Despite a 10-month investigation, the privileges committee has not produced a azygous portion of grounds showing Boris Johnson knowingly misled parliament. The committee volition exonerate Boris Johnson of immoderate contempt of parliament.”

On Wednesday the 7 committee members (four Conservative MPs, 2 Labour and 1 SNP) volition conscionable astatine 1.30pm until 2pm to hole to question Johnson, earlier the main proceeding starts. A Commons committee country has been booked from 2pm until 7pm, with the full league being televised. The committee is expected to location successful connected wherefore Johnson was unaware that the parties helium attended breached the aforesaid Covid rules helium was telling the state to obey successful regular property briefings. The MPs volition besides privation to cognize why, having made statements to parliament insisting nary rules were broken, helium did not instrumentality earlier and much regularly to close the record.

The committee chair, Harriet Harman, volition unfastened the session, earlier Johnson is expected to marque archetypal remarks and curse an oath of honesty, earlier each MPs are fixed clip to inquire questions.

Johnson volition bring his lawyer, Lord Pannick, but helium volition not beryllium capable to reply questions connected his behalf. However, Johnson volition beryllium capable to crook to him for proposal during the proceeding oregon earlier answering questions himself.

Sources adjacent to the committee said Johnson would not beryllium omniscient to repetition accusations made precocious successful his sanction by his spokesman, that Gray’s assignment arsenic Starmer’s main of unit showed the full enquiry process was a “political amusement proceedings with an outrageous level of bias”.

The committee’s damning interim study aboriginal this period included comments from 1 witnesser saying the past premier curate told a packed No 10 gathering successful November 2020, erstwhile strict Covid restrictions were successful force, that “this is astir apt the astir unsocially distanced gathering successful the UK close now”.

It besides included comments from a No 10 authoritative successful April 2021, six months earlier the archetypal reports of parties emerged, saying a workfellow was “worried astir leaks of PM having a piss-up – and to beryllium just I don’t deliberation it’s unwarranted”.

If the committee finds that Johnson misled parliament, it could pb to his suspension, if the committee uncovering is approved successful a ballot of the House of Commons. Under parliamentary rules, an exclusion of 10 days oregon longer would mean Johnson’s constituents could question a callback petition to region him arsenic their MP. Last week helium was reselected arsenic the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

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