Johnson accepts he misled MPs but insists he spoke ‘in good faith’

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Boris Johnson has accepted that he misled MPs but insisted his partygate denials were made “in good faith” based on what he “honestly” knew at the time.

The former prime minister insisted in his written evidence to the Privileges Committee inquiry that he “did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House”.

The committee said Mr Johnson’s legal argument “contains no new documentary evidence” and that it had to be resubmitted on Tuesday because of “a number of errors and typos”.

Downing Street partygate
Boris Johnson at a gathering in 10 Downing Street for the departure of a special adviser in November 2020 (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA)

However he insisted there is “no evidence at all that supports an allegation that I intentionally or recklessly misled the House”, as he battles to avoid a possible suspension.

“So I accept that the House of Commons was misled by my statements that the Rules and Guidance had been followed completely at No 10,” he wrote.

“But when the statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis of what I honestly knew and believed at the time.

“I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House on December 1 2021, December 8 2021, or on any other date. I would never have dreamed of doing so.”

Mr Johnson urged the committee not to treat Mr Cummings as a “credible witness” because of his “animosity towards me”.

The former Tory leader rejected the committee’s belief that the evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to him while prime minister.

He called the inquiry’s allegation “illogical”, arguing that some of those who attended the events “wished me ill and would denounce me if I concealed the truth”.

“Far from achieving a ‘cover-up’, I would have known that any deception on my part would lead to instant exposure. This would have been senseless and immediately self-defeating,” he wrote.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves his home in London on Tuesday
Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves his home in London on Tuesday (PA)

Mr Johnson insisted it was “unprecedented and absurd” to suggest he was reckless to rely on the assurances of his advisers and criticised the “highly partisan tone and content” in the committee’s damning interim report.

He insisted that any lack of social distancing in the “old, cramped London townhouse” of No 10 was not necessarily a breach of guidance.

“We tried to keep our distance, but we knew that proximity was sometimes unavoidable, and we knew that this was acceptable under the guidance,” he said.

Mr Johnson accepted he personally attended five of the events considered by the committee but said he “honestly believed that these events were lawful work gatherings”.

If Mr Johnson fails to convince the committee he did not deliberately mislead the Commons, he could be found to have committed a contempt of Parliament.

A suspension of more than 10 days could result in a high-profile by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

The full House of Commons would vote on any recommendations.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to giving Tory MPs a free vote over his predecessor’s fate (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

They have questioned the role of Labour grandee Harriet Harman chairing the Tory-majority committee and the use of the Sue Gray report, now she plans to join Sir Keir Starmer’s office.

Mr Johnson received one of the 126 fines issued by Scotland Yard during its investigation into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall while he was prime minister.

An estimated £220,000 of taxpayers’ money has been allocated for Mr Johnson’s legal bills.

An interim report by the committee earlier this month said evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to the then-prime minister.

The Privileges Committee is considering at least four occasions when Mr Johnson may have misled MPs with his assurances that lockdown rules were followed.

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