Love him or hate him, everyone knows that Boris Johnson likes to be the center of attention.
On the afternoon of next Wednesday, starting at 2 pm, the former Prime Minister will be back in the spotlight in Westminster for a high-stakes presentation, which promises to be a popcorn moment for spectators.
On live television, members of the cross-party privileges committee will ask Mr. Johnson for up to four hours about whether he deliberately lied when he told the House of Commons that he was unaware of offending parties in Number 10 during the period of the COVID emergency.
If MPs conclude he is guilty, they will recommend a punishment that could see him lose his parliamentary seat representing Uxbridge – a calamity that would surely end the political career of a man who would once again be prime minister.
Technically, the MPs have to decide whether Mr. Johnson committed contempt of the House by lying to it about the parties, and not correcting his words later.
It’s a judgment call by your peers.
First, the seven MPs on the privileges committee. Then, if punishment is recommended, the whole House of Commons will say whether to implement it.
The committee’s work has already caused an uproar in Westminster.
Chris Bryant, the senior Labor MP who chaired it, has been sidelined, or rather “refused”, as the jargon goes, because of earlier criticism of Johnson.
MPs were reluctant to let Conservative Conservative, dissident Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin take over, so Harriet Harman, the former Deputy Labor Leader was co-opted to take over the presidency.
Meanwhile, two Conservatives on the committee, first-time MP Andy Carter and Alberto Costa, resigned from minor government posts to keep their seats. The other members are Allan Dorans (SNP), Yvonne Fovargue (Labour) and Sir Charles Walker (Conservative). Four Conservatives give them a majority on the seven-member committee.
taxpayers are paying Johnson to hire his own lawyers on behalf of the government.
Strong circumstantial case against Mr. Johnson
David Pannick, an independent member of the House of Lords, duly voiced views that the committee’s actions are “very unsatisfactory” and “fundamentally flawed”.
His main argument was that the crux should not be whether Mr. Johnson deceived the House, but if there was “intent to deceive”.
Lord Pannick KC’s other clients include Sir Philip Green, Shamima Begum and Manchester City FC.
MPs are legislators who regulate their own affairs and reject Lord Pannick’s argument.
However, Johnson’s intentions in making the statements he has made will be sticking points during his interrogation next week.
There is a strong circumstantial case against Mr. Johnson. He has repeatedly denied any knowledge of parties and rule-breaking during the 2020 and 2021 COVID restriction periods, although he has announced many of the regulations himself.
He later accepted a fixed fine notice from the Metropolitan Police and paid a fine for attending a party on his birthday.
Like Sue Gray’s report on partygate before it, this month’s privilege committee pre-hearing interim report cites “evidence that a culture of workplace drinking in some parts of No. COVID”, including “birthday parties and leaving the parties to employees”.
The committee’s report contains photos that show more drinking and crowding than the photos released by Ms. Gray.
See more information:
Boris Johnson was re-elected to run in Uxbridge in the next general election after safer seat suggestions
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However, when Johnson was asked about parties in the House of Commons after the stories broke in the media in the final months of 2021, he repeatedly denied them.
On December 1, 2021, he told the House: “All guidelines have been followed in full on Number 10.”
On December 8, he stated, “Guidelines were followed and rules were followed at all times… I have been assured time and time again since these allegations surfaced that there was no party and no COVID rules were broken.”
Committee wants answers on four points
The commission’s interim report amounts to a criminal record he will face.
The commission wants answers on four points.
Mr. Did Johnson cheat, i.e. lie, when he said “No rules were broken” and that he was “unaware of meetings”?
Was he sincere when he said he needed to trust the staff’s assurances that no rules had been broken and that he needed to wait for Sue Gray’s report to find out if there were any parties that broke the rules?
The committee took written evidence from 23 people involved and has already concluded “breaches of [COVID] guidance would have been obvious to Mr. Johnson at the time he was in the meetings”.
Lying is a very touchy subject at Westminster. Many members of the public might think that’s what politicians do all the time. But accusations of lying are officially designated as “non-parliamentary language”, and no lawmaker can directly accuse another of doing so.
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The assumption is that no “honorable or honorable” member would lie, and that if he inadvertently tells a falsehood, he will correct the official record.
In recent times, government ministers have corrected their statements in the Hansard over a hundred times a year.
The former prime minister will play for the dwindling group of politicians loyal to Boris
No one knows how difficult Wednesday’s interrogation will be or how Johnson will react to it.
His lifelong tactic, when in trouble, is to flatter his audience and try to make a performance joke out of it.
As his admiring father Stanley recalled, it worked in the school play at Eton: “Boris was playing the title role. It was quite obvious that he hadn’t learned the part, but he mastered it splendidly, inventing a sequence of near-perfect Shakespearean pentameters on the hull. .”
Johnson’s appearances in front of discerning audiences didn’t go so well.
Asked if he was a habitual liar, he could only stammer “I don’t agree with that conclusion”.
He was forced out of office as prime minister last summer, shortly after a member of the MPs Liaison Committee bluntly told him “the game is up”.
Sir Max Hastings, who encouraged Johnson when working for him at The Daily Telegraph now he hates it.
He commented: “Those who know Boris best like him least.”
Johnson was never “a man of the House of Commons”, but MPs can’t help but know him well by now.
Regardless of how he is handled by the committee, Johnson will be playing for the dwindling group of politicians loyal to Boris and party members and his supporters in the conservative media, who are already claiming he was unjustly ousted by a left-wing party conspiracy. .
Unlike Johnson, who catastrophically tried to use the whip on his deputies to save his friend Owen Patterson from a 30-day suspension for corruption, Rishi Sunak said he will not interfere.
Johnson’s fate may well depend on which path Conservative lawmakers take, in committee and then across the House.
Psephologist Peter Kellner has a single word of advice for conservatives eager to bring Boris back: “don’t” – in their own best interest.
The investigation is unlikely to drive the stake to the heart of Johnson’s political career
Analyzing a Delta opinion poll, Mr. Kellner points out that Mr. Johnson is more unpopular with the public than Mr. Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer, and just as disliked as the Conservative Party, which means he wouldn’t bring any bounces with him.
Even so, the chances should be low that the lying inquiry will finally drive the stake to the heart of Johnson’s political career via the MPs Recall Act, introduced by David Cameron.
First, the committee would have to recommend a suspension of more than 10 days of session as punishment, then it would need to be endorsed by the majority in the House. Only then would a petition for repeal have to take place in his constituency. Then 10% of the electorate in Uxbridge would have to sign it, to expel it and force a by-election.
This sequence is a difficult task.
The gamble has to be that “the greased piglet”, as David Cameron called it, will escape its political butchers again and continue to draw attention to itself.