Boris Johnson declared over Partygate during the barbecue: ‘Hand on my heart, I haven’t lied to the house’.
BORIS Johnson yesterday tore up claims he misled the Commons as his Partygate hearing began, declaring: “Hand on my heart I have not lied to the House.”
The former prime minister, who was fighting for his political career, insisted he was not trying to deceive MPs as he claimed no rules were broken at No 10 during lockdown.
Mr Johnson has come under fire for attending boisterous parties while shutting down the country and said it was “amazingly unlikely” that he would have allowed the events to be covered by an official photographer.
He accused the Commons Privileges Committee of acting as “prosecutor, judge and jury” despite having “no evidence”.
Mr Johnson also admitted that being fined alongside current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for going to an event to celebrate his birthday “bogged my mind”.
Mr Johnson began the long-awaited four-hour showdown with the panel of MPs by swearing on the Bible to tell the truth.
He began by apologizing again for the scandal that had helped bring him down, saying there were days over a 20-month period when gatherings “went beyond the point of telling that they were necessary for work purposes”.
He added: “That was wrong. I bitterly regret it.”
He said he was sorry for “accidentally misleading this House,” but added, “That I did it recklessly or on purpose is utterly wrong.”
During an irritated session, he reiterated claims that he was “repeatedly assured” by his team that the No. 10 gatherings were within the rules.
He said social distancing guidelines could not always be observed in the cramped No 10 Downing Street.
He added, “It’s always been that No. 10 limits would make it impossible to enforce total social distancing all along — with an electric force field around everyone, so to speak.”
Mr Johnson stuck to his guns that meetings were work-related.
He told MPs: “I thought we were working, I promise you the officers working at No 10 thought so too.”
He suggested that the scope of the inquiry was wrongly widened to look at whether he lied out of recklessness rather than just on purpose.
Mr Johnson said: “It would be one thing if the committee had come here and said, here are the emails or WhatsApp showing you were rule-breaking before you made your statements to the House. You have no such evidence because that never happened.
“But if you’re now saying instead that it must have been obvious that we broke the rules and guidelines, then let’s be clear about what you’re saying.”
Instead, Boris insisted he honestly believed it when he told the Commons in December 2021 that all rules and regulations had been followed.
Only after police handed dozens of fines to No 10 staff did the former PM accept that the rules had been broken after all.
As the hearing dragged on, an increasingly frustrated BoJo raged: “People who say we’ve been partying during lockdown just have no idea what they’re talking about.”
He pointed to official #10 photos as proof he couldn’t have known they were breaking rules.
He argued, “To say that we held illegal events at No. 10 while allowing those events to be immortalized by an official photographer is chillingly implausible.”
He continued, “I will believe until the day I die that it was my job to thank the staff for what they did.”
Mr Johnson also dismissed claims his birthday was a fun affair with snacks and cake.
His wife Carrie and interior designer No10 Lulu Lytle were at the event, which Boris claimed he couldn’t have known was illegal because his press team told The Times days after the event.
He said: “On my birthday, I came back from a long external visit.
“I thought (the meeting) was reasonably necessary for work reasons because I’m standing at my desk surrounded by officials who have asked to come and wish me a happy birthday.
“I’ve only recently recovered from Covid and it seemed like a perfectly right thing to do.”
Evidence released by the committee from senior advisers appears to contradict Mr Johnson’s claims he was told all the rules were being followed.
But Labour’s Harriet Harman, the committee chair, claimed his excuses were ‘thin’. Tory Bernard Jenkin has lashed out at his attempts to blame advisors and questioned his “interpretation” of the rules.
Allies of Mr Johnson last night said they were concerned the committee was preparing to find him guilty of at least being sloppy in his comments in the House of Commons.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7697643/boris-johnson-partygate-hearing/ Boris Johnson declared over Partygate during the barbecue: ‘Hand on my heart, I haven’t lied to the house’.