Boris Johnson erupts at ‘complete nonsense’ in Partygate grilling
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Conservative MPs have blasted the Privileges Committee for “personal venom”, branding their probe into Boris Johnson a “witch hunt”. Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North, claimed the committee asked questions which were “designed to attack Boris as a person” during its four-hour grilling yesterday. The Privileges Committee is attempting to decide whether or not the former Prime Minister “recklessly” or “knowingly” misled the House of Commons over illegal parties held in Downing Street during lockdown.
While Mr Johnson has accepted he misled the Commons with his Partygate denials, he said he did not do so “recklessly”.
He claimed he made his denials to Parliament “in good faith” on the advice of his officials, which he now concedes turned out to be wrong.
The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip swore on the Bible to tell the truth before issuing an apology.
He told the Committee: “I’m here to say to you, hand on heart, I did not lie to the House.
Mr Johnson’s fate is now in the hands of the Privileges Committee after he faced a host of questions about what he knew about parties held in Downing Street during lockdown and his explanations to MPs.
But Red Wall MP Mr Longhi questioned the committee’s motives, telling the Daily Express: “I think many of the questions asked were designed to attack Boris as a person rather than to seek out if he’d behaved reasonably and followed due process – which was proven.
“I was particularly annoyed when he was asked if having a ‘farewell gathering’ was in the guidance.
“How utterly ridiculous and it shows the personal venom some MPs hold against Boris. It was a witch hunt.”
Meanwhile, Brendan Clarke-Smith dismissed the probe into Mr Johnson as an “opposition witch hunt”.
Speaking about the former PM’s performance in front of the committee, he said: “Superb and highly robust defence today from Boris Johnson at the Privileges Committee.
“Strong evidence offered by him and excellent rebuttals to various questions.
“I’m confident that following this he will be exonerated and we can put an end to the media and opposition witch hunt.”
Ben Bradley – MP for Mansfield – agreed, telling the Daily Express: “I thought his opening comments were strong, and ultimately there’s no way anyone can know what he was thinking and how he was feeling, other than himself.
“I’m really not sure at this point, given he’s no longer Prime Minister, what there is to be gained for anyone in all of this, to be honest.”
But fellow Conservative MP Caroline Nokes rejected claims the Privileges Committee is a “kangaroo court”.
She told ITV: “I think it’s very wrong to criticise good colleagues who have been given a very serious responsibility and have taken that seriously, have worked hard on this.
“I think they need to be given the opportunity and a bit of peace and quiet to come to their conclusions, make whatever recommendation they make to the House in due course.
“I think Boris Johnson is finished anyway. There was a very clear message from his own ministers back in the summer that they didn’t want him to carry on.
“He didn’t choose to stand against Rishi Sunak back in the autumn when we had the second leadership challenge.
“As far as I’m concerned, Boris Johnson is not coming back as prime minister.”
The former Prime Minister, who left No 10 last September following a series of scandals including Partygate, could be suspended and face a possible by-election if he is found to have committed contempt of Parliament with his denials of rule-breaking to MPs.
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