Post the evidence! Boris Johnson’s team says Partygate probe is suppressing documents that will clear ex-PM’s name
Boris Johnson’s defense team last night accused the controversial Partygate investigation of suppressing evidence that could exonerate him.
An explosive internal report from his team claims the Commons Privileges Committee has received “thousands of documents” supporting its claim that it did not deliberately mislead Parliament about closing meetings at number 10.
The document also accuses the inquiry of refusing to release testimony from “dozens of witnesses” who told the committee they also believed the high-profile gatherings were within the rules.
The note, a copy of which has been seen by the Daily Mail, says: “The committee must do the right thing and publish all the evidence it has gathered so that the public can make its own decision.”
Boris Johnson’s defense team accused the controversial Partygate investigation of suppressing evidence that could exonerate him
The documents allegedly support his claim that Johnson (pictured at number 10 during lockdown) did not deliberately mislead Parliament about the lockdown meetings at number 10.
Sue Gray, who reported on the Downing Street parties in Whitehall during the coronavirus lockdown, pictured in Westminster
Less than neutral views of the MPs deciding his fate: These are the seven MPs who will question Boris Johnson on Partygate:
Andy Carter (With)
He wrote on his website when the prime minister resigned: “I believe this is the right thing to do and is in the best interest of the nation… Contempt is a matter that would require Mr Johnson’s resignation if found in non-compliance.” . ‘
Alberto Costa (CON)
He told a news website: ‘It’s not my fault that he had to resign, it’s not Rishi’s fault, it’s not anyone’s fault but the man who held or holds that position. He has to look in the mirror and ask himself why he felt that he could not keep the confidence of the parliamentary party and the country in general”.
Allan Dorans (SNP)
He wrote in a newsletter last year: ‘People…were understandably furious that, while following the Covid rules and making personal sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking them by holding illegal parties in Downing Street. So it’s good news that the Metropolitan Police have recently confirmed that the law was broken and initial fines were issued. However, Boris Johnson should have resigned long ago; it cannot be one rule for us and another, or none, for the Tory Government.
Yvonne Fovargue (LAB)
Posted on Twitter ahead of the 2019 election: ‘Boris Johnson tells shameful lies. These are just ten of them.
Harriet Harman, President (LAB)
He tweeted last April: ‘If you get FPN (penalty) from the Covid records you can either admit guilt or go to (court) to contest it. If the PM and CX (chancellor) admit their guilt, accepting that the police have the right to break the rules, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons.’
Sir Bernard Jenkin (CON)
He told Sky News in February last year: ‘We are looking at a change in the capacity and character of the Government. So that we can be sure that nothing as clumsy or mortifying as this Partygate episode could ever happen again.
Sir Charles Walker (CON)
He told Channel 4 News early last year: “I think there is so much grief and pain out there that if he were to say, ‘Look, I understand that I asked a lot of the country and it has to come to terms with that grief and pain and to start the healing process and if he could do better without me at number 10, then I’ll stay out of it,’ that would show great courage on behalf of the Prime Minister.’
Johnson’s legal team submitted a formal defense “file” to the investigation yesterday ahead of a televised questioning tomorrow.
But the committee hadn’t been able to publish it last night.
A former minister said: ‘It’s a shame the committee is sitting on Boris’s evidence.
They previously selected the evidence they liked, rather than letting Boris present his case.
The Committee on Privileges is conducting an unprecedented inquiry into whether Johnson deliberately or “recklessly” misled Parliament when he told MPs that “all instructions were followed” in No. 10.
He plans to question Johnson in public for up to four hours.
If you are found guilty of deliberately misleading Parliament, you could face suspension or even a by-election.
Allies of the former prime minister fear the inquiry, led by former Labor vice-president Harriet Harman, has turned into a “witch hunt”.
In an interim report this month, the committee said it should have been “obvious” to it at the time that lockdown rules were not being observed.
He posted messages from number 10 aides, including one suggesting it was difficult to explain how a gathering in the Cabinet Room to mark Johnson’s birthday was within the rules.
And Number 10 granted the investigation access to a vast cache of internal documents.
But the document produced by Johnson’s team suggests that many messages that cast him in a more favorable light have been suppressed.
The leaked report indicates that the evidence will show that his advisers gave him “direct assurances, prior to statements in the House, that the rules were followed.”
It also says: ‘The evidence from the Committee on Privileges shows that dozens of witnesses said they believed the same thing as Boris Johnson: that regulations were being followed and that all the events he attended were work events.
“There is no evidence in thousands of documents obtained by the committee that anyone in number 10 ever said they thought the rules or guidance had been breached at the time, or that their statements to Parliament were untrue.”
The team also warns that committee chair Ms Harman “is already on record saying she believes Boris Johnson is guilty of misleading Parliament.”
The committee’s failure to release the evidence file, which runs to more than 50 pages, submitted yesterday by Mr. Johnson’s legal team leaves him unable to present his case in public before tomorrow’s hearing.
He said last night that he had only received the evidence from the former prime minister at 2:32pm and would need more time to assess it.
A spokesman said: ‘The committee will need to review what has been submitted in order to make appropriate redactions to protect the identity of some witnesses.
‘The committee intends to publish this as soon as possible.’