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HomeNewsInternational NewsEvidence Boris Johnson misled MPs exists, interim Partygate report says

Evidence Boris Johnson misled MPs exists, interim Partygate report says

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(The Guardian) There is evidence Boris Johnson misled MPs when he repeatedly said no lockdown rules had been broken in Downing Street, a cross-party committee has said in a damning report that shows No 10 officials apparently struggling to reconcile this insistence with reality.

The interim report from the Conservative-majority privileges committee includes a witness saying Johnson told a packed No 10 gathering in November 2020, when strict distancing rules were in force, that “this is probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK right now”.

There are also indications that officials realised there was an issue with gatherings months before the first reporting about them in autumn 2021. One message from an unnamed No 10 official in April that year said a colleague was “worried about leaks of PM having a piss-up and to be fair I don’t think it’s unwarranted”.

There are also apparent signs of Johnson and his government trying to impede its work by withholding or redacting relevant evidence.

The report was intended primarily to guide the former prime minister about questions he would be asked at an evidence session later this month, as the committee seeks to determine whether he misled parliament.

But its 24 pages of evidence and footnotes include a wealth of newly released evidence, including witness statements and copies of internal staff messages.

One series shows No 10 officials trying to work out “our best possible defence” when evidence emerged of the gatherings. In response to a suggestion they described an event as “reasonably necessary for work purposes”, Johnson’s then director of communications, Jack Doyle, said: “I’m struggling to come up with a way this one is in the rules in my head.”

Another message says: “Haven’t heard any explanation of how it’s in the rules.”

The account of the November 2020 event, when restrictions barred indoor gatherings of two or more people and mandated distancing of 2 metres, says Johnson gave a speech to an aide who was leaving to an audience “standing four or five deep”.

The report also says Johnson is believed to have seen regular Friday night lockdown drinks events in the No 10 press office, and that a visit by the committee proved there was a line of sight from his route back to his flat to the relevant area.

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