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Boris Johnson will share WhatsApp messages that 'prove' he did not mislead Parliament ahead of blockbuster inquiry
18 March 2023, 20:12 | Updated: 18 March 2023, 20:34
Boris Johnson will unveil a 'defence dossier' of WhatsApp messages which 'prove' he did not knowingly mislead MPs over Partygate, allies say.
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The former prime minister will give a four-hour appearance in front of Parliament's Privileges Committee investigating claims he lied to the House of Commons.
Johnson had declared "no parties" took place at No 10 during the Covid pandemic, claiming images showing celebrations among colleagues were "workplace events".
If he is found in contempt of Parliament and suspended from the Commons for ten days, he will face a by-election in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, a Labour target seat.
But texts from colleagues will reportedly show that Johnson was following official advice when he denied in the Commons that any parties had taken place.
A member of Johnson's camp told The Sunday Times: “The messages will show in black and white that what Johnson told parliament was what he had been advised to say by officials and his No 10 team. The argument will be that it was reasonable for him to rest upon those assurances.
“Boris was not present at the vast majority of the gatherings and so there was a limit to what he knew about, and he was forced to rely upon the advice he received. What we are trying to show is that he said what he believed and was told at the time.”
One contentious message from ex-No 10 director of communications Jack Doyle read: “I’m struggling to come up with a way this one is in the rules in my head.”
Johnson has been emboldened by the apparent hiring of Partygate lead investigator Sue Gray as Keir Starmer's new chief of staff.
Despite no signs of any wrongdoing on Gray's part, friends of Johnson claim her recruitment by the Leader of the Opposition scandalises the ongoing Privileges Committee probe.
Nadine Dorries claimed the hiring leaves "huge ethical concerns”.
Jacob Rees Mogg claimed Gray's recruitment “invalidates her partygate report and shows there was a socialist cabal of Boris-haters who were delighted to remove him”.
Ex-Tory party treasurer Lord Cruddas has sought to shut down the committee in light of Gray's impending appointment, although one Tory MP told the newspaper: “They [Cruddas] are straying into undermining democracy.”
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The news came hours after it was reported that Rishi Sunak will allow Tory MPs a free vote on whether to censure Johnson in the event he is found to have deliberately misled Parliament.
Mr Sunak is understood to have decided that he will not whip MPs to defend Mr Johnson, instead giving them the freedom to make their own decisions, The Times reported.
A government source told the newspaper: "There is no way that we are going to get stuck in the hell that is Owen Paterson again," referencing Mr Johnson's controversial decision to overturn a 30-day suspension given to the former cabinet minister.
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