“Partygate” affair: Johnson’s fateful political day | tagesschau.de

As of: 03/22/2023 6:52 p.m

Did Boris Johnson deliberately lie to Parliament over the ‘Partygate’ scandal? Whatever the outcome of the hearing, it is fundamentally an important day for British democracy.

By Annette Dittert, ARD Studio London

Boris Johnson appeared before the so-called Privileges Committee, which must now decide whether he knowingly lied to the British Parliament during the Covid lockdown, with his hair unusually short and neatly trimmed.

The former prime minister obviously wants to appear serious. Because there is a lot at stake for him. Should the investigating committee find him guilty of knowingly lying to Parliament, Johnson could lose his MP and his political future.

“For Boris Johnson, it’s really about a lot today, about his political future,” Annette Dittert, ARD London, on the “Partygate” affair

tagesschau24 3:00 p.m., 22.3.2023

Photos prove that the parties took place

On more than 100 pages, the Privileges Committee painstakingly compiled an overwhelming number of facts that seem to more than prove the allegation: photos showing Johnson in the midst of larger gatherings of people in Downing Street, which were often not allowed at the time with alcohol and obviously tipsy staff – what the normal Brit would call a party.

Nevertheless, that’s not all. The committee of inquiry not only has to prove that Johnson generally lied about this, but – and this is the crucial subtle difference – that he knowingly and intentionally lied to Parliament when he repeatedly stated there that the lockdown rules have been observed at all times. That’s what – deliberately misleading Parliament – is a relatively serious offense in the British Constitution.

Boris Johnson must explain himself before the Inquiry Committee. The question is whether he lied to Parliament on purpose. Photos provide evidence that the parties took place.

Image: AFP

Didn’t he know his own rules?

Johnson’s defensive strategy is based on a slightly surreal pirouette. Today he tried to convince the committee that the rules were so complex that he didn’t even understand where and how he might have broken them.

Which of course also means that he would not have understood his own rules, which he announced every evening on television during the lockdown as prime minister – a defense with which he finally disqualifies himself as prime minister, but which makes him question whether whether he knowingly lied to Parliament.

Suspension could cost MP office

The members of the committee of inquiry still seemed unconvinced of Johnson’s strategy today. Whether they will ultimately recommend the “maximum penalty” for parliament to vote in the next few days or weeks – a more than ten-day suspension of Johnson from parliament, which could cost him his office – is still unclear at the moment.

Because to do this, the seven MPs would have to be able to clearly prove that he had deliberately lied in Parliament. And an individual intention is difficult to prove in case of doubt.

Milestone for British democracy

But whatever the outcome of this committee of inquiry, today’s hearing is an important milestone in the history of British democracy. Because in the unwritten British constitution, Parliament is the real sovereign in the state.

The way in which Johnson treated the elected MPs during his time as prime minister repeatedly shook the foundations of the British rule of law. It wasn’t just Johnson’s chronic lying, or repeated attempts to bypass Parliament altogether, up to and including his wrongful dissolution in 2019, later overturned by the Supreme Court.

One MP among many

Since Brexit came into force, the actually central role of the British Parliament has been trampled on again and again. Johnson’s ruthless handling of rules and the famous unwritten codes of conduct of British political culture increasingly rubbed off on his fellow campaigners.

With this committee of inquiry, however, the House of Representatives is now putting the actual balance of power provided for in the constitution back in order. In the end, even a former prime minister is just one member of many who has to bow to the will of the elected parliament.

That is the most important signal that will go out from today. It doesn’t matter whether it will herald the end of Boris Johnson’s political future or whether he will just get away with it again.

Inquiry into the Partygate affair – Boris Johnson before Parliamentary Committee

Imke Koehler, ARD London, 22.3.2023 5:19 p.m

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