Boris Johnson heard by a parliamentary committee

Boris Johnson addresses a parliamentary committee during a hearing into the 'partygate' case, Wednesday March 22, 2023.

Boris Johnson persists and signs: he did not lie. The former British Prime Minister was heard on Wednesday March 22 by a parliamentary committee for the so-called “partygate” affair, these parties held in Downing Street in the midst of a pandemic.

Faced with the barrage of questions that were hurled at him for more than three hours, the 58-year-old former Conservative leader did not give up. “I am here to tell you, hand on heart, that I did not lie to Parliament”he said at the start of this television hearing.

The stakes are high for the former leader whose future in politics could be threatened. If the committee of seven MPs, including four Tories, concludes that he intentionally lied to Parliament about the Downing Street parties during the lockdown, Boris Johnson risks losing his MP seat.

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A few silences and hesitations

The boozy parties in Downing Street during the Covid pandemic, revealed in the press over several months, had angered the British. So strictly confined, they had denounced a ” Two weights, two measures “ intolerable.

Before the hearing, the commission had traced in a 110-page document the official statements of Boris Johnson and what was happening then in the first place of British power. In May 2020, Mr Johnson asks “the whole country to obey the rules”, but takes part in a garden party a few days later. On June 10, he “urges everyone to continue to exercise restraint and play by the rules” then participates on the 19th in a birthday party organized for him by his wife Carrie. And, in November 2020, at a small party, still in Downing Street, he quips about the fact that “this is probably the least social distancing gathering in the whole of the UK”.

On Wednesday, the commission released photos of the various rallies, testimonies, extracts from statements from the time of Boris Johnson, putting him face to face with his contradictions. Faced with the evidence put forward, he tried to answer point by point, despite some silences and hesitations. “At all times, I have been completely transparent towards Parliament”he assured. “I apologize for inadvertently misleading Parliament, but to say I did so deliberately is totally untrue. »

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No regrets

The parliamentary committee, accused by supporters of Boris Johnson of having embarked on a witch hunt, must determine whether he deliberately lied in the House of Commons, in particular when he claimed in December 2021 before MPs that “the rules were always respected” during the pandemic.

“I accept that perfect social distancing was not respected [à Downing Street]but that doesn’t mean what we were doing was inconsistent with the rules.”, defended Mr. Johnson, who expressed no regret. Throughout the hearing, the former prime minister, whose defense cost taxpayers more than 220,000 pounds sterling (249,000 euros) according to British media, pleaded good faith.

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MPs will vote on any penalties he could face, including a suspension which, if longer than ten days, could trigger a by-election in his constituency, where his majority is slim.

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