Boris Johnson news - live: Ex-PM evidence session closes with grilling over 'kangaroo court'

Follow live as former prime minister is questioned over claims he lied to Parliament

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  • Harriet Sinclair

    Thanks for following Yahoo News UK's liveblog. Read below for a full review of Boris Johnson's evidence session before the Privileges Committee.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Harman closes the session

    Bringing around three and a half hours of questioning to a close, Harman asked Johnson whether he still wanted to assert that the guidance had been followed at all times when he attended gatherings. "I do," Johnson responded.

    "My view remains that the guidance allowed for social distancing not to be carried out with rigid drill sergeant precision," he said, "provided you had mitigations."

    Asked if he had any further points to make, Johnson said he did not but added: "I have much enjoyed our discussion," prompting laughter.

    "I think it has been a useful... I genuinely think it has been a useful discussion."

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Kangaroo court

    The committee questioned Johnson over his supporters' description of the inquiry as being a "kangaroo court" - something suggested by Jacob Rees Mogg during the committee's hearing - Johnson said he deprecated the term used.

    "My questions of fairness are well documented in my submission. I deprecate the term that you've just used, I don't to repeat it but I think the people will judge for themselves on the basis of the evidence you have produced the fairness of this committee."

    Asked whether he would refer to the process as a witch hunt, Johnson replied: "If this Committee were to find me in contempt of Parliament having come and done something so utterly insane and contrary to my beliefs and principles as to come here, to come to Parliament and wittingly lie, I think that would not only be unfair but I think it would be wrong."

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Johnson lashes out at questions as being 'complete nonsense'

    Johnson became increasingly agitated after he was asked by committee member Jenkin why he did not take "proper advice" after being accused of misleading Parliament.

    "I was not accused of law-breaking. I was asked to say what had gone on at a party or an event in the Media Room on December 18, 2020," Johnson said.

    Jenkin replied if there was "the most thinnest scintilla of doubt about it, well you'd want to copperplate your assurances by taking proper advice - and I put it to you, Mr Johnson, that you did not take proper advice"

    Johnson responded: "This is complete nonsense, complete nonsense. I asked the relevant people, they were senior people, they had been working very hard."

  • Harriet Sinclair

    What Johnson allies are saying

    Several of Johnson's allies have tweeted in support of the former prime minister as he answers questions over Partygate.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    'We didn't touch each other's pens'

    Among the COVID rules the former prime minister said were observed at Downing Street, Johnson cited perspex screens, one-way walking directions and not sharing stationary. "We didn't for instance as the guidance says touch each other's pens, we didn't pass stuff to each other if we could avoid it," he said.

    Asked whether they passed drinks to one another during gatherings, Johnson replied: "Of course. This is guidance. This is guidance. And I'm not going to pretend that it was enforced rigidly. But that's explicitly what the guidance provides for."

    Johnson also replied an emphatic "yes" when he was asked whether the gatherings that were held at Downing Street were "necessary for the function of government".

    "I thought it was absolutely necessary to thank staff," he said.

  • Harriet Sinclair

    What the commentators say

    As Johnson continues to insist he was unaware of any rules or guidance being broken, The Independent's Sean O'Grady says Johnson is grandstanding to distract from his weak defence.

    Voices: The Boris Johnson Show is all about distraction from his weak Partygate defence

    The ex-PM’s principal line is that he was never told or warned rules were broken and the committee has no evidence to that effect

  • Harriet Sinclair

    Champagne photograph

    "There's nothing I can see in that photograph that strikes me as being against the rules and against the guidance," Johnson said after being presented with a photograph of a gathering in which he was toasting a colleague and numerous bottles of alcohol were in view on the table.

    "I don't know what happened later on but for the period I was there it seemed to be ... a proper use of my time," he said, adding that toasting leaving colleagues was expected when he was asked why alcohol was needed at a work event.

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Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at a residence in London, Britain, March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Boris Johnson pictured this morning ahead of the evidence. (Reuters)

Boris Johnson was quizzed over claims he lied about the Partygate scandal in a four-hour grilling that could spell the beginning of the end of his political career.

The former PM faced questions from MPs over whether he knowingly lied to Parliament when he repeatedly said that COVID guidance was followed within the walls of Downing Street.

Johnson insisted he made those statements in good faith and that he trusted the assurances of key aides. He said “drinking wine or exchanging gifts” at work did not break the law and that claims he lied are absurd. He also put forward various mitigations, including that cramped conditions made adhering to social guidances almost impossible.

The committee will not base its final ruling today, but the expected four-hour session will could indicate whether the prospects of Johnson resurrecting his political career are over.

Boris Johnson hearing: Latest news

Ten Partygate questions Commons committee could ask Boris Johnson (Guardian, 1 min)

Opinion: Boris Johnson issues an apology for doing nothing wrong (Telegraph, 3 min)

‘I struggled to believe it’: my part in exposing Partygate (Guardian, 2 min)

Johnson’s partygate defence ‘complete and utter nonsense’, say Covid bereaved (Evening Standard 3min)