Former prime minister Boris Johnson admitted on 21 March that he misled parliament by telling MPs that parties at his Downing Street office did not break Covid lockdown rules. He claimed, however, that he did so in “good faith”. The revelation to the contrary comes from evidence submitted to a parliamentary committee probing the partygate scandal.
‘Made in good faith’
Police previously fined Johnson for breaking the rules he set for the public. The MP initially insisted that the gatherings were above-board, but has since offered an apology for his presence at the party, for which the police fined him. However, as BBC News highlighted, there were at least eight events Johnson attended that the public know about.
Johnson is due to go before a cross-party Privileges Committee of MPs on 22 March. The committee will probe his 52-page statement to determine whether Johnson was in contempt of parliament. The Privileges Committee shared the full document, in which Johnson said:
I accept that the House of Commons was misled by my statements that the rules and guidance had been followed completely at No. 10
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.
He also claimed that there’s “no evidence” that showed he “intentionally or recklessly misled” the House of Commons.
If the Privileges Committee decide on 22 March that Johnson was in contempt, MPs will get a vote on what sanction he could face. This may include a suspension. Any suspension over 10 sitting days could trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.
Johnson lied, thousands died
Johnson’s descent into the mire of technicalities for his defence may fool some in parliament, but few in the public are falling for it. Many people recognise that, regardless of the MP’s claims, he was partying while a majority of the public were following Tory guidelines – trying to keep one another safe:
3 yrs since I took this pic: the last time I spent with dad before he was taken from us in the cruelest way. Johnson’s defence continues to add to our pain. My dad died alone because we followed rules he made but was too stupid to understand & follow. He must be held accountable! pic.twitter.com/DE3qxCCn6H
— Kathryn de Prudhoe 🌹💙😷💉🇬🇧🇪🇺🇺🇦 (@de_prudhoe) March 21, 2023
Wanted to put this on my timeline to cancel Boris Johnson
This rose was given to me by Don, my patient for 10 yrs
Don died during the beginning of the pandemic
His family followed the rules & couldn’t pay their respects at the funeral
Shame on BJ! pic.twitter.com/yxbEGZ1ZxD
— Doctor May Jay (@DoctorMayJay) March 21, 2023
My Uncle David died from Covid alone in hospital. The rules said my Auntie Iris couldn’t be with him. She stuck to the rules because she was trying to do the right thing. Boris Johnson made those rules. He broke those rules. And then he lied about breaking them.
— Miffy (@miffythegamer) March 21, 2023
Echoing these sentiments, campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK described Johnson’s self-serving “good faith” partygate claim as “sickening”:
It’s obvious that Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament and should resign as an MP.
Far worse though is the lies he deliberately told to bereaved families, after failing to protect our loved ones.
His claim that he did so in “good faith” is sickening. https://t.co/Sl8o1gO9gC
— Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK (@CovidJusticeUK) March 21, 2023
The group went on to voice how Johnson’s two-faced behaviour is “disrespect” that it’ll “never forgive”.
Partygate was someone else’s fault
It isn’t only his claims of “good faith” that show Johnson’s attempts to minimise his responsibility, though. The Guardian shared an excerpt from the statement in which Johnson appears to throw his former communications director under the bus.
In it, Johnson said that his communications director Jack Doyle told him that one party he attended “was within the rules”. And as journalist Lewis Goodall pointed out, Johnson repeatedly rolled over on others to save himself:
Again, Mr Johnson obliquely blames his staff. pic.twitter.com/UnRXTC63RY
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) March 21, 2023
Johnson even doubled down in paragraph 100 of his statement, saying:
I have never received any warning before any event that anyone had concerns that an event might break the Rules or Guidance.
Of course, relying on this technicality for his partygte defence isn’t the defence Johnson claims it is. As cross-party group Best for Britain highlighted, Johnson’s own legislative affairs director said the MP “went row by row” through lockdown legislation:
This (now deleted) tweet from Johnson’s director of legislative affairs at the time lockdown rules were being drafted is highly relevant to his latest defence that he didn’t understand them and relied on others to advise him what was and wasn’t within those rules. ~AA pic.twitter.com/tz5TeRHBQK
— Best for Britain (@BestForBritain) March 21, 2023
And, more bluntly, he was at the time the prime minister. It was literally his job to know the rules, whatever they are, as another Twitter user pointed out:
Whether Johnson misled Parliament or not boils down to this:
Johnson was ultimately responsible for making and communicating the Covid rules to the public.
Is it unreasonable to expect him to understand those rules, without the need for warnings or advice from others?
— getnorthern – “a discrace to Britain”, “shitbag”. (@getnorthern) March 21, 2023
His actions cannot be undone
In the end, the outcome of the Privileges Committee panel almost doesn’t matter. The worst that Johnson faces is the loss of his position as an MP. Meanwhile, the widespread harm his actions and partygate have caused cannot be undone.
More than 220,000 people in the UK have died due to Covid-related issues to date. More will have died as an indirect result of the government’s response to the pandemic. Every one of those was part of a relationship, family, friendship group, or community, with their loss causing immeasurable impact. And Covid hasn’t disappeared – that number will continue growing.
Now, rather than taking responsibility and letting himself be held accountable, Johnson is still weaving paper-thin excuses to defend himself. And, in doing so, he’s once again spitting in the faces of the public and laughing.
Featured image via ITV News/YouTube
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.