Damning new evidence has emerged as part of the inquiry into whether former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled Parliament over his conduct during the so-called Partygate scandal.
The new information suggests that those advising Johnson knew that the gatherings taking place in Downing Street during the Covid closures broke the UK government’s own guidelines and points to a culture of drinking inside Downing Street at the ‘era.
Last year, the Metropolitan Police fined Johnson for attending one of the rallies, making him the first sitting British prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law.
The new details came in a report by the House of Commons Committee on Privileges, which released the evidence Johnson will be asked about when he appears before the panel later this year.
The report says there is evidence that Johnson may have misled Parliament about what he knew about the events in Downing Street. “The evidence strongly suggests that the breaches of the guidelines would have been obvious to Mr. Johnson when he was at the rallies,” he adds.
In one section of the report, Johnson’s former communications director is quoted as saying in a WhatApp message regarding a rally on June 19, 2020: “I’m struggling to find a way this one is within the rules of my direct.” In response to a suggestion to label the event as “reasonably necessary for business purposes”, which would have been within the rules, the director of communications replies, “not sure if we work do it . Also blows another big gaping hole in the Prime Minister’s account, doesn’t it? »
Johnson has repeatedly told parliament that to his knowledge “the guidelines were followed and the rules were followed at all times”.
The Privileges Committee will ultimately decide whether or not Johnson misled the House of Commons and, in turn, whether or not he is found in contempt of Parliament. It will then be voted on by the House of Commons.
If Johnson were found in contempt and he was still in government, it would amount to a violation of the Ministerial Code. Typically, a violation would mean the resignation of a minister. As a backbench MP, it is unclear what punishment Johnson would inflict, although there is enormous pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discipline him in some way .
Johnson and his allies have dismissed the credibility of the report, saying it is based on testimony from a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, who in recent days has been linked to a job working for the leader of the opposition Labor Party official, Keir Starmer. .
However, that account has already been overturned by a spokesperson for the Privileges Committee, who said: “The committee’s report is not based on Sue Gray’s report. The committee’s report is based on evidence in the form of: material provided by the government to the committee in November, including communications such as WhatsApps, emails and photographs from the official Downing Street photographer” and ” evidence from witnesses who were present either at the time of the rallies or when Boris Johnson was preparing statements in parliament. Sue Gray was not present at either and is not one of these witnesses.