(London) Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will fight on Wednesday to save his political future, before a commission that will scrutinize his lies during the Partygate crisis, these Downing Street parties in the midst of a pandemic.
During a televised hearing which will begin at the beginning of the afternoon and could last four hours, the 58-year-old former head of the Conservative government will try to disentangle himself from the scandal which cost him his post in July and dragged the Kingdom United in months of political instability.
“An optimistic Boris ready for combat” headlined the tabloid The Daily Mail on Wednesday, while The Guardian noted that the former Prime Minister is playing “ his political survival”.
If he finds himself in his favorite position, at the center of media and political attention, the thunderous leader, now a simple deputy and who will take an oath on the Bible before testifying, will he be able to avoid a sanction that would destroy all hope of a return to the forefront of British political life?
The parliamentary committee, accused of having embarked on a witch hunt by Johnson’s supporters, 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 respected all the time” in Downing Street during the pandemic.
The “partygate”, these revelations for months on the watered parties in Downing Street during a particularly strict confinement in the United Kingdom, had aroused the anger of the British, who had denounced an “ double weight, two measures ” intolerable.
In a 110-page document made public on Wednesday morning, the commission traces the official statements of Boris Johnson and what was happening then in Downing Street, photos and testimonials in support.
In May 2020, Mr. Johnson, for example, encouraged “ the whole country to obey the rules ”, but a few days later took part in a garden party in the Downing Street gardens. On June 10, he “urges everyone to continue to show restraint and respect the rules” and on the 19th participates in a birthday party organized for him by his wife Carrie.
And in November 2020, on the occasion of a small party, still in Downing Street, he quips that “ it is probably the least respectful gathering of social distancing in the whole of the United Kingdom ”.
According to the testimony of a Downing Street employee, Boris Johnson “had the opportunity to put an end” to these gatherings, but “ let these behaviors continue”.
If the commission, which has obtained written evidence from 23 people, finds he lied, Boris Johnson risks losing his MP seat, jeopardizing the rest of his political career and his hopes of ever returning to Downing Street.
MPs will vote on any penalties he could face, including a suspension, which if longer than 10 days could trigger a by-election in his constituency, where his majority is slim.
Boris Johnson has admitted lying to the commission by denying the existence of these parties, then ensuring that they had complied with anti-COVID-19 rules, but pleaded good faith in a 52-page document made public on Tuesday, where he points the finger at his main advisers.
But one of them, Martin Reynolds, had recommended that he not tell Parliament that the rules had always been respected, judging that it was not “realistic”, according to his testimony received by the commission.
These arguments have sparked the anger of the families of victims of the pandemic. For Bereaved Families for Justice, “it is clear that Boris Johnson has deliberately misled Parliament”. The group describes as “sickening” the fact that he claims to have acted in good faith.
In a preliminary report in early March, the commission indicated that the evidence collected “strongly suggests” that violations of anti-COVID-19 rules should be “obvious” to Boris Johnson.
He had resigned in July, pushed out by a revolt within his government. Boris Johnson, however, attempted a comeback at the end of October when his short-lived successor, Liz Truss, left Downing Street.