Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces another make-or-break moment in his political career when he appears in Parliament on Wednesday to face questions about whether he intentionally misled MPs over the so-called partygate scandal.
The partygate scandal rocked the UK in the months following the Covid-19 pandemic and ultimately contributed to Johnson’s downfall as Prime Minister. The affair involved reports of parties held by government and Conservative Party staff members at Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s residence, during the pandemic when public health restrictions prohibited most gatherings. In response, Johnson repeatedly said that no rules had been broken.
Johnson will be grilled by the UK parliamentary privileges committee on Wednesday, a cross-party group of MPs tasked with investigating potential cases of contempt of Parliament and breaches of privilege. Contempt of parliament is defined as an obstruction or interference with the workings of the House of Commons.
The hearing, which has been described as “box office” viewing by political pundits, will be live-streamed here on the UK Parliament’s website.
The privileges committee is chaired by the long-time MP Harriet Harman of the opposition Labor party but comprises a majority of Conservative MPs. The group was first asked to investigate whether Johnson misled Parliament last year. In an interim report published earlier this year, the committee said the evidence strongly suggested the rule breaches should have been “obvious” to Johnson.
On Monday, in preparation for the committee gathering, Johnson submitted what had been described as a “bombshell” 50-page dossier outlining his defense. The document was later published in full on Tuesday.
In the dossier, Johnson accepted that the House of Commons was “misled” by his statements that Covid rules and guidance had been followed during his time in Downing Street but concluded that his denials were “made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”
The committee’s findings will be critical to Johnson’s political future, with several reports published recently that suggest he is plotting a return to frontline politics. If found to have misled Parliament, Johnson could be suspended from the House of Commons, which would allow voters in his marginal west London constituency to challenge his seat with a by-election.
No fixed date has been set for the publication of the committee’s findings. However, it is unlikely that the final report will be published until May since the Commons is in recess until April 17. Local elections also take place shortly after MPs return to the Commons, which the committee would not want to be accused of influencing with their findings.
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