Poll: Do you think this is the end for Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson giving evidence to the Privileges Committee at the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 22, 2023.
Boris Johnson gave evidence on lockdown parties to the privileges committee at the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson is fighting for his political future following a bruising appearance in front of MPs as he gave evidence into lockdown-busting parties.

During a three-hour grilling by MPs on Wednesday, Johnson insisted there was not a “shred of evidence” to show he lied to MPs, telling them it would have been “utterly insane” for him to have misled Parliament.

The former Conservative Party leader said he “did not lie to the House” over his reassurances about COVID guidance being followed in Downing Street during the pandemic.

However, he did, as he had already done in his submitted written evidence, confirm he gave “wrong” information to the Commons but insisted he “corrected the record as I promised I would”.

People protest against former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in London, Britain, March 22, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Protesters made their feelings clear about Boris Johnson as he gave evidence. (Reuters)

While accepting he misled MPs, Johnson said he did not do so “recklessly”, insisting he denied lockdown breaches “in good faith” on the advice of officials, who turned out to be wrong.

The committee at times appeared hostile towards Johnson, with tetchy exchanges taking place.

Harriet Harman, the Labour chairwoman of the Tory-majority committee, asked whether he could see why they were “a bit dismayed about the flimsy nature” of the assurances.

Senior Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin also questioned why Johnson failed to take “proper advice”, which Johnson angrily rejected as “complete nonsense”.

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What happens next?

The inquiry will come to a verdict on whether they believe Johnson committed a contempt of parliament by deliberately misleading the Commons.

If the committee finds a contempt has been committed, it will recommend a punishment which would then have to be approved by the House of Commons as a whole.

Sanctions could range from a simple apology to ordering that he be suspended from parliament.

Watch: Highlights of Boris Johnson’s privileges committee hearing

Rishi Sunak is expected to grant a free vote in the Commons on any sanction that may be recommended.

It means Johnson’s career as an MP could come to an end, depending on what sanctions are imposed.

Any suspension of 10 sitting days or more could trigger a tricky recall by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

If 10% of eligible registered voters in the constituency sign a recall petition then a by-election will be called.

Johnson would be eligible to stand again but in 2019 he had a majority of 7,210 over Labour – who would be keen to claim a high-profile scalp.

However, Johnson indicated he could refuse to accept the inquiry’s verdict if it finds he committed a contempt of parliament by deliberately misleading the Commons, saying he would “wait to see”.