Former British prime minister Boris Johnson has sensationally acknowledged he misled the House of Commons – albeit unintentionally – over coronavirus rule breaches, but has lashed out at the parliamentary committee established to probe his conduct.
Johnson’s 52-page written submission to the House of Commons privileges committee said he had made “honest but inadvertently misleading statements” that he had subsequently corrected, but “would never have dreamed” of doing so deliberately.
The privileges committee launched its probe after an independent inquiry into the so-called partygate scandal, which blamed a “failure of leadership and judgement” for the lockdown-busting parties that took place at 10 Downing Street during the COVID pandemic.
For months the committee has investigated whether Johnson knowingly misled MPs when he told them in late 2021 that no COVID rules had been broken at parties.
After investigations into what became known as partygate, the Metropolitan Police issued 126 fines for COVID law breaches to 83 people over eight government events, including a notorious “bring-a-bottle” party in the garden of 10 Downing Street.
Police fined Johnson and multiple other aides and fellow MPs in April last year, including current prime minister Rishi Sunak, for their part in the events.
The issue was a major part of Johnson’s downfall last year which eventually led to a mass cabinet revolt and his resignation.
READ ALSO: Why Boris Johnson Agreed To Resign As Prime Minister
Johnson said he took “full responsibility” for everything that took place on his watch at Downing Street, conceding “of course true” that his statements in the House of Commons – that the COVID rules and guidance had been followed at all times – turned out not to be correct.
“I was not trying to conceal these events because I believed that there was nothing to conceal or cover-up,” Johnson wrote in his defence, released by the committee a day before he appears in person before it.
“If someone had known or believed that the rules or guidance had been broken . . . you would expect that there would have been contemporaneous documents recording this,” he wrote. “There is absolutely nothing.”
Johnson faces being suspended or even expelled from parliament, if MPs decide he deliberately misled them despite his assurances that lockdown rules had been followed were made in “good faith”. Conservative MPs will be given a free vote on any recommendations, meaning they will not be told how to vote by party leadership.