In peril and agile as a cat – UK papers react to Boris Johnson committee hearing

Boris Johnson’s three-hour grilling at the Privileges Committee dominates Thursday’s UK newspapers, with a focus on the former prime minister’s fate and dramatic descriptions of both humiliation and defiance.

Mr Johnson is fighting for his political future after MPs investigating his partygate denials denounced the “flimsy” assurances they were based on.

Downing Street partygate
Boris Johnson giving evidence to the Privileges Committee (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

During what Metro describes as “bad-tempered” exchanges, Mr Johnson insisted there was not a “shred of evidence” to show he lied to MPs.

The Privileges Committee could recommend his suspension from the Commons, and if a proposal for a 10-day suspension is voted through by MPs, a by-election in Mr Johnson’s seat could be triggered.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what the papers made of the eagerly anticipated committee hearing.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Johnson was “besieged but defiant” in its front page headline, with its editorial saying: “Even after yesterday, and even if the privileges committee rules against him, it would be wrong to write off Mr Johnson as a spent force.

“As his performance at the hearing attested, he has lost none of his fighting spirit, nor his capacity to weave arguments that infuriate and confound his political opponents.

“It is not difficult to imagine, if he is indeed removed from Parliament, him returning in another guise – maybe even as the leader of a new party dedicated to channelling the fury and disappointment that many millions feel towards a failed establishment.”

The Daily Mail says Mr Johnson was “as agile as a cat” and “pure box office”, with Sarah Vine writing: “Not since Johnny Depp took on Amber Heard has a courtroom drama been so hotly anticipated.”

She describes Mr Johnson as “the Captain Jack Sparrow of British politics” and a “buccaneer and charming rogue”.

Ms Vine concludes: “In the end though, it was all just a bit farcical. The truth about Boris is that those who love him will forgive him almost anything, while those who don’t will seize on the tiniest thing to condemn him.”

The Guardian leads on the suggestion that Mr Johnson’s answers were “flimsy” and focus on him “fighting for his political career”.

Pippa Crerar describes the evidence session as “tetchy” and says the stakes for the former PM are high.

The Daily Express leads on “bullish” Mr Johnson’s promise that he did not lie to MPs, and in an editorial describes the probe as “a hugely expensive and increasingly absurd sideshow”.

“It distracts attention from the dire challenges facing the NHS and comes as the country’s biggest police force is wracked with scandal and Russia’s war machine is ravaging Ukraine,” the paper says.

The Daily Mirror refers to Mr Johnson’s “party excuses” on the front page and points out that plenty of people were having “difficult days”.

In an editorial, the Mirror says of Mr Johnson: “Whatever the committee decides, yesterday’s hearings showed him in his true light: devious, self-serving and entitled.”

The i describes Mr Johnson as being “in peril” and refers to the “angry clashes” he had during the hearing.

In a letter from the editor, Oliver Duff describes Mr Johnson as “rattled” and says: “For a man so accomplished at manipulating the English language, it was a torturous encounter with contradiction and semantic cul-de-sacs.”

The Independent reports on a “Double Commons humiliation for blustering Boris”, pointing out his failure to lead a Commons revolt against Rishi Sunak.

Elsewhere, the Metro front page story on “furious” Mr Johnson’s “bad-tempered” exchanges is accompanied by a Burger King advert which says “There’s no smoke without fire”.

And finally, the Daily Star depicts Mr Johnson as a cross between Pinocchio and Vicky Pollard from Little Britain on its front page, and says he “blamed everyone but himself”.