April 13, 2024

Thank you for joining us

Doug Faulkner

BBC News

With that we are going to end our coverage for today.

We’ll be back again tomorrow as Boris Johnson goes before the Privileges Committee to give his evidence in person (and in front of the camera).

Today’s coverage has been written by Becky Morton, Emily McGarvey, Michael Sheils McNamee, Nathan Williams and Doug Faulkner.

Thank you for joining us.

Recap: What did Johnson say in his evidence?

We’ll be bringing our live coverage to a close shortly so here’s a summary of the key points from Boris Johnson’s evidence to the Privileges Committee and what else we’ve learned today:

  • In his written submission, Johnson accepts he misled MPs in his statements to Parliament where he said Covid rules and guidance had been followed completely at No 10
  • However, he argues he did not “intentionally or recklessly mislead” the Commons because his statements were made “in good faith” and on the basis of what he believed at the time
  • Johnson also claims he corrected the record “at the earliest opportunity” – something the committee has previously disputed
  • He argues it was “reasonable” for him to rely on assurances from his advisers that the rules were followed
  • He rejects the committee’s suggestion that it should have been “obvious” to him that Covid guidance was breached because he attended some of the gatherings himself
  • If this was the case, Johnson argues it would also have been “obvious” to others but he says the vast majority of those who gave evidence to the committee did not believe they had broken the rules
  • He also attempts to discredit the committee’s interim report, describing it as “highly partisan”
  • The committee says Johnson’s submission contains “no new documentary evidence”
  • Earlier, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed MPs will get a free vote on any sanctions recommended for Johnson.

And here is our write up of the day.

Covid bereaved families group call Johnson defence ‘sickening’

A woman walks past the National Covid Memorial in London

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group says it is “sickening” that Boris Johnson claimed he acted in “good faith” while accepting he misled the House of Commons over Partygate.

Writing on Twitter the group says it is “obvious that Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament and should resign as an MP”.

It adds: “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.”

Meanwhile, a woman whose father died with Covid-19 early in the pandemic says Johnson’s latest defence continues to highlight “his lack of shame and humility”.

Kathryn de Prudhoe, a psychotherapist from Leeds, says her father Tony Clay died alone in April 2020 and had five people at his funeral.

Speaking about Johnson’s defence, she says: “I feel utterly insulted at the obfuscation used to avoid accountability and the subtle yet obvious attempt to paint himself as a victim of people who were out to get him.”

Who are the key characters in Johnson’s dossier?

As well as Dominic Cummings several other names feature in Boris Johnson’s evidence to the Privileges Committee.

Martin Reynolds

Martin Reynolds served as Johnson’s principal private secretary and featured heavily in reporting of Partygate. In May 2020, during lockdown, he emailed about 100 Downing Street staff inviting them along to socially distanced drinks outdoors.

In Johnson’s evidence, the former PM says No 10 went to “great lengths to follow” Covid guidance under the direction of Reynolds. Johnson cites his former principal private secretary as someone who believed the events happening were work events.

Martin Reynolds
Image caption: Martin Reynolds was Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary

Lee Cain

Lee Cain served as Downing Street director of communications, and his leaving do on 13 November 2020 is one of the events Johnson addresses.

Johnson says on that occasion he “made a short speech, and left after approximately 15 minutes”.

Cain is also referred to in Johnson’s evidence in relation to the event on 20 May 2020, when Johnson says “Lee Cain has also raised the possibility that he raised a concern with me, although he has said that he does not recall if he did so”.

Lee Cain
Image caption: Lee Cain served as Downing Street director of communications

Jack Doyle

Someone who gets extensive mention in the report is Jack Doyle, the former Downing Street director of communications.

It has previously been reported that Doyle made a speech to 20 or 30 people and handed out prizes at a Downing Street party just prior to Christmas 2020.

In his evidence, Johnson says it was Doyle who first made him aware of the Partygate stories ahead of their publication in the Daily Mirror in November 2021. He says when he was told there had been a party at No 10 in December 2020, he thought it was “some kind of try-on”.

“It seemed implausible to me that there could have been an illegal event at No 10 almost a year earlier that I had not heard about before,” he says.

“Nonetheless, I asked Jack Doyle about the event, which he confirmed he had attended.”

Jack Doyle leaving Downing Street
Image caption: Jack Doyle reportedly attended a party at No 10 in December 2020

They are yet to comment on Johnson’s evidence.

  1. Cummings accuses Johnson of ‘misinformation’

    Dominic Cummings

    Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, has accused him of “misinformation” in relation to his account of a gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020.

    Writing on his blog, Cummings repeats his claims the then-PM was told by himself and another adviser, Lee Cain, that the gathering “seemed clearly outside the rules”.

    In his submission, Johnson insists no-one expressed any concerns to him at the time about whether the event complied with Covid rules or guidance.

    Cummings also references a line from a Times article that Johnson had rejected his claims the gathering was against the rules.

    “This is not just obviously false, it’s further misinformation from him,” he writes.

    “Officials were fined therefore the cops concluded it was against the rules, as [Lee] Cain and I warned that morning, and which is referred to in emails given to Sue Gray.”

    As we reported earlier, Johnson has argued Cummings should not be treated as a “credible witness” because of his “animosity towards me”.

  2. Starmer says committee must conduct its investigation

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says he hasn’t yet seen the evidence from Boris Johnson to the Privileges Committee that has been published today.

    Starmer says it is for the committee to conduct their investigation.

    He was speaking at a press conference in London following the publication of a report into the Met police (follow our coverage here).

  3. Reality Check

    Did Johnson correct record at earliest opportunity?

    One of the key things the committee investigating Boris Johnson is looking at is how long it took him to correct some of his statements to Parliament.

    This is known as “correcting the record”. Each year around 100 written corrections are made by ministers who have inadvertently misled Parliament.

    Boris Johnson says he corrected the record at “the earliest opportunity at which I could make the necessary correction”, which, he says, was after the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street gatherings on 25 May 2022.

    That was almost six months after his statements about Covid rules and guidance being followed “at all times” had been made.

    The committee said in its interim report that it wanted to know why “instead of correcting the record at the earliest opportunity, he declined to answer questions that were within his direct knowledge”.

    It said that it should have been obvious to Johnson that not all the guidance was being followed at events that he attended. Johnson disputes this.

  4. What could happen to Johnson after Partygate hearing?

    We’ve heard Boris Johnson’s defence before he faces a panel of MPs tomorrow over allegations he misled Parliament.

    Here are some possible outcomes of the Privileges Committee inquiry:

    He is completely cleared of misleading Parliament – This is possible, although it does not, at this stage, seem the most likely outcome.

    That is because the committee has already published a report, after gathering evidence, which identifies one statement he made which later turned out to be wrong.

    He is found to have misled Parliament, is suspended and loses his seat – At the other end of the scale is the very worst case scenario for Johnson.

    Firstly, the committee would have to decide that Johnson had not only misled Parliament but also that what he said had an impact on its “proper functioning”. This would mean it was a “contempt”.

    They would also have to conclude that the contempt was so severe that they decide to recommend one of the most severe punishments available to them: suspension from Parliament for 10 sitting days or more.

    He is found to have misled Parliament but gets a different punishment – If the committee does find Mr Johnson was in contempt of Parliament they will take a view on how serious it was.

    Punishments could range from: asking him to make a written apology, making him apologise in person in the Commons, up to suspension.

  5. Lib Dems: Put an end to this Tory soap opera

    We are starting to get a bit of reaction to the publication of Boris Johnson’s evidence to the Privileges Committee.

    Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper says: “After countless lies, scandals and failures, it’s time to put an end once and for all to this Conservative soap opera.”

    We’ll bring you more as it comes in, although some may be waiting for the ex-prime minister’s televised grilling tomorrow before responding.

  6. Johnson source hits back at MPs committee

    Nick Eardley

    Chief political correspondent

    A source close to Boris Johnson has responded to the Privileges Committee – which said Johnson’s final written evidence contained no new evidence and only arrived at 08:02 GMT today because the original contained “errors and typos”. (See our earlier post.)

    However, the source says that only a typo about a date was corrected so that the submission was fully accurate.

    “It is not right to suggest that the document had errors,” they said.”The committee received it in its substantially complete form at 2.32pm yesterday.

    “There is significant new material in the document that is new to the public domain,” they add.

  7. Johnson does not accept committee ensured fairness

    The Privileges Committee said evidence suggests it should have been “obvious” to Boris Johnson that Covid rules were not being following in Downing Street.

    Johnson argues that if it was “obvious” to him, it would have been obvious to dozens of others who also attended gatherings. He goes on to say that the “vast majority” of people who have given evidence to the committee have indicated they did not consider their attendance broke the rules.

    Screenshot from Boris Johnson's defence dossier

    Johnson also writes that he does not accept the Committee has ensured a fair process in its report.

    He goes on to once again question MPs’ assertion that it would have been obvious to him that rules were broken.

    Screenshot from Boris Johnson's defence dossier

    However, the committee cited its political balance in the report, highlighting that it is made up of four Conservatives MPs, two Labour MPs, and one SNP MP – to reflect the balance in the House of Commons.

    The committee report said:

    Quote Message: There is a fundamental expectation that members of the committee leave their party interests at the door of the committee room and conduct their work in the interests of the House not their party. That is what each member of the committee has done in this inquiry.”

    Source: bbc.com

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