Boris Johnson to accuse MPs probing Partygate scandal of 'moving goalposts' ahead of Parliamentary showdown

19 March 2023, 23:56 | Updated: 20 March 2023, 06:31

Boris Johnson will reportedly accuse the committee investigating Partygate of "moving the goalposts"
Boris Johnson will reportedly accuse the committee investigating Partygate of "moving the goalposts". Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

Boris Johnson will reportedly accuse the committee investigating Partygate of "moving the goalposts" in a bid to find him guilty, as he attempts to clear his name over allegations he misled the House of Commons over the scandal.

In a submission set to be published on Monday, Mr Johnson's lawyers are expected to outline evidence of assurances given to Mr Johnson that no Covid rules had been broken.

His legal team are set to argue that the privileges committee changed the definition of misleading Parliament, and will accuse the cross-party group's chairwoman Harriet Harman of having prejudiced the outcome of the probe, The Telegraph reports.

Since 1963, Parliamentarians have been investigated over whether they misled the Commons "deliberately", but the committee decided it wasn't necessary for it to prove intent, just that he had “recklessly” misled Parliament, which is easier to prove.

His team will argue that the definition was changed as the committee wasn't able to to find any compelling evidence.

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The outlet quoted a source close to Mr Johnson’s defence as saying that the evidence was “totally in his favour” and that the argument that he had never misled Parliament would be “shown to be right”.

Die-hard Johnson supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg blasted the inquiry saying it made "a kangaroo court look respectable".

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson addresses the Global Soft Power Summit at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on March 2, 2023 in London, England.
Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson addresses the Global Soft Power Summit at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on March 2, 2023 in London, England. Picture: Getty

Mr Rees-Mogg suggested that the investigation by the committee - which is made up of seven MPs with a Tory majority - was a "stitch up", as it relying on evidence gathered by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who has since left to become Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's chief of staff.

“It is chaired by a Labour MP who has already said she thinks Boris is guilty, even before any of the evidence was examined," he said.

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"If this was the other way around, Labour MPs would rightly be calling ‘foul’ and calling this a stitch-up.”

At his appearance on Wednesday, Mr Johnson will be expected to make initial remarks and swear an oath of honesty, before all MPs are given the opportunity to ask questions.

He will appear before MPs for a marathon televised grilling which could last up to five hours, as he fights to save his political career.

Boris Johnson attends 'gathering' during lockdown.
Boris Johnson attends 'gathering' during lockdown. Picture: Privileges Committee

The cross-party committee previously said in an interim report, that there is evidence showing that coronavirus rule breaches would have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson.

It also said there was evidence "that those who were advising Mr Johnson about what to say to the press and in the House were themselves struggling to contend that some gatherings were within the rules".

Andrew Castle fumes at Boris Johnson ahead of Partygate inquiry

It is examining evidence around at least four occasions when Mr Johnson may have deliberately misled Parliament over whether lockdown rules had been broken in Number 10.

The Sunday Times previously reported that Mr Johnson will point to a series of WhatsApp messages from senior civil servants and members of his No 10 team that haven't yet been disclosed showing that he had relied upon their advice when he made his statements to the House.

Its also claimed he will publish messages showing that other senior figures Downing Street figures believed that the gatherings would fall under the “workplace exemption” contained in the coronavirus rules.

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