Boris Johnson faces intense questioning from MP committee over lockdown social gatherings

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today been the subject of questioning and scrutiny regarding the ‘Partygate’ scandal.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Johnson, amongst other MPs and Downing Street staff, were accused of breaching government restrictions at a number of gatherings.

A committee made up of MPs have put forward questions about Johnson’s gatherings which occurred at 10 Downing Street during lockdown in 2020 and 2021.

The committee has been chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman. At the start of proceedings, Mrs Harman said: “If what ministers tell us is not the truth, we can’t do our job.”

One of the key events, which occurred on December 18 2020, has received particular focus, as guidelines stated at the time that no work parties could take place.

The official guidelines were as follows:  ‘You must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier’.

However, alcohol was present at the gathering, and a Secret Santa gift swapping was also organised. Boris Johnson said he was not at this event however, adding that he had no memory of it taking place.

During the questioning the former PM was also shown a picture, from November 13 2020, of him raising a glass of wine in a room where attendees were not following social distancing measures. In response, Johnson said that he believed the event was necessary for work purposes.

10 Downing Street, where many of the gatherings in question took place. A total of 14 events have been confirmed, which have been looked in to. Image Credit.

Johnson also described the cramped nature of 10 Downing Street to justify his claims that social distancing measures were followed at all times.

Yesterday, March 21, Johnson published a 52-page defence in which he admitted to misleading Parliament, yet his statements were made in ‘good faith’ based on his knowledge at the time of the gatherings.

The 58-year-old reinforced this view during the questioning, stating: “To say I did it [misled Parliament] recklessly or deliberately is completely untrue.”

As members of the committee continued to question Johnson on events during lockdown, the MP appeared to become increasingly ‘rattled’.

Before questioning began, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group described Johnson’s defence as ‘sickening’.

Whatever conclusions are drawn from today, a decision from the committee on what awaits Boris Johnson will not be heard until the summer. 

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