Boris Johnson misled UK Parliament over lockdown parties: Report

Parliamentary committee says former prime minister would have been suspended as MP had he not quit last week.

Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s former prime minister who was in power during the pandemic, deliberately misled parliament over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, a parliamentary committee ruled on Thursday.

After a yearlong investigation, the committee said Johnson would have been suspended as an MP for 90 days for “repeated” contempt of parliament had he not angrily resigned last week.

Johnson, 58, called the report a “protracted political assassination”.

The parties in 2020 and 2021, which were reportedly boozy affairs and in contravention of social distancing measures in place at the time, undermined his credibility and contributed to his downfall, the committee of lawmakers said.

A majority of the panel’s seven members of the House of Commons Privileges Committee come from Johnson’s Conservative Party.

The full House of Commons will now debate the committee’s report and decide whether it concurs with the panel’s findings and recommended sanctions.

Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallego, reporting from London, said the implications of the report “are too serious to ignore”.

She described the report as a “damning response” to Johnson’s behaviour during the health crisis.

“A lot of people in Westminster are saying this does in effect draw a line under the Johnson era – and his political career,” Gallego said.

The committee’s long-awaited, 106-page report was even more critical than expected, particularly in relation to the sanctions it would have recommended.

“We have concluded above that in deliberately misleading the House, Mr Johnson committed a serious contempt. The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the Prime Minister, the most senior member of the government. There is no precedent for a Prime Minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House,” the committee said.

‘Partygate’ fallout

Johnson hung on to his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in outer northwest London at the last general election in December 2019, which his Conservative Party won in a landslide.

The so-called “partygate” scandal also saw Johnson, his wife Carrie and dozens of government officials fined by police for breaking the social distancing laws that the government had set for the public to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was among the dozens of people issued with fixed-penalty notices for a series of office parties and “wine time Fridays” across government buildings.

News of the parties triggered public outrage, particularly among the families of those who died from the virus.

The scandal was one of a number that contributed to Johnson’s downfall as prime minister and led to a ministerial rebellion that forced him to resign as premier in July.

Former members of parliament are normally entitled to a pass that gives them access to the Parliamentary Estate.

The committee said in its report that in view of the fact that Johnson is no longer a member, “we recommend that he should not be granted a former member’s pass”.

Johnson has acknowledged misleading lawmakers when he assured them that no rules had been broken, but he insisted he did not do so deliberately.

In March, he told the committee he “honestly believed” the five gatherings he attended, including a send-off for a staffer and his own surprise birthday party, were “lawful work gatherings” intended to boost morale among overworked staff members coping with a deadly pandemic.

He also said “trusted advisers” assured him that neither the legally binding rules nor the government’s coronavirus guidance had been broken.

Source: Aljazeera