Scottish Daily Mail


Report claims rule breaches at No 10 would have been ‘obvious’ to ex-PM ++ But he insists they’ve found no proof and he’s been vindicated

- By David Churchill and Tom Witherow

THE Partygate probe is on course for a sensationa­l televised showdown with Boris Johnson over fears he misled Parliament.

A report released by the inquiry yesterday suggested Mr Johnson would have been aware he was breaking lockdown rules at No 10 gatherings he attended.

But the former Prime Minister came out fighting, insisting that he had been ‘vindicated’ and there was ‘no evidence’ he had lied to Parliament.

He also launched a scathing attack on the Commons privileges committee for relying on evidence compiled by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who has become Sir

Keir Starmer’s chief of staff. The crossparty committee released a 24-page report yesterday citing Miss Gray’s Partygate dossier 26 times.

It appeared to condemn the former PM before he has even given evidence, suggesting that ‘breaches of [lockdown] guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings’. It also suggested ‘there is evidence that the House of Commons may have been misled’ by his claims that ‘all guidance was followed completely’ during the gatherings.

But in his first major interventi­on on the probe, the ex-PM said: ‘I believed that what we were doing was within the rules and that’s why I said what I said to Parliament.

‘And I think what’s so interestin­g about the report today is that after ten months of effort and sifting through all the innumerabl­e WhatsApps [texts] and messages, they found absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise.’

He added: ‘The privileges committee have produced a report which I believe totally vindicates me because there is no evidence whatsoever that when I stood up in Parliament I said anything I did not believe and therefore there is no contempt.’

Taking aim at Miss Gray’s report, he told Sky News: ‘I think it’s a peculiarit­y that the person who conducted the inquiry into what went on in No10 and the Cabinet Office – who was presented to me as a person of complete political impartiali­ty with absolutely no political axe to grind whatever – has just been appointed the chief of staff of the leader of the Labour Party.

‘I make no comment about it, except to say I’m sure people may want to draw their own conclusion­s about the confidence they can place in her inquiry.

‘If you had told me at the time I commission­ed Sue Gray to do the inquiry, if

‘I believe it totally vindicates me’

you had told me all the stuff I now know, I think I might have cross-examined her more closely about her independen­ce and I might have invited her to reflect on whether she was really the right person to do it.’

In a statement earlier he said it was ‘surreal to discover that the committee proposes to rely on evidence culled and orchestrat­ed by Sue Gray’.

The committee’s report included previously unseen photograph­s of Downing Street gatherings, as well as messages between No 10’s then-communicat­ions director Jack Doyle and officials in January last year, said to show they were ‘struggling’ to justify how events were within the rules.

The former PM will give evidence to the committee in the week beginning March 20. It is reserving final judgment until it has heard from him in person.

But Mr Johnson’s allies questioned how the process – which could ultimately lead to him facing a by-election – can be ‘credible’ after Miss Gray quit her Cabinet Office post on Thursday to take up the job with Labour.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries said: ‘Sue Gray’s evidence cannot be relied upon in any meaningful way until we know how long she has had a personal relationsh­ip with Keir Starmer and for how long they have been discussing Sue going to work for him as his most trusted and important adviser.

‘It is very hard to see how Sue has not breached the civil service code.’

Former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke said: ‘This whole affair raises really serious questions. The impartiali­ty of the civil service is of the utmost importance for any functionin­g government.

Before the privileges committee can continue and rely on Sue Gray’s evidence, which will be pivotal, we need an urgent inquiry.’

Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman is heading the privileges committee investigat­ion into Mr Johnson’s conduct.

If the MPs suspend him for ten days or more, on the grounds that they believe he misled Parliament in December 2021 when he denied parties had taken place in No10, that would automatica­lly trigger a recall petition.

If more than 10 per cent of the local electorate signed that petition it could trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat. The committee said Mr Johnson would be quizzed on ‘the rules and guidance relating to Covid that were in force at the relevant time’, his ‘knowledge of the rules

and guidance in force’, ‘attendance at gatherings that were not socially distanced and those for which fixed penalty notices were issued’.

The committee said MPs may have been misled multiple times as it teed up the blockbuste­r showdown with Mr Johnson.

A spokesman for the privileges committee said: ‘The report is not based on the S ue Gray report. It is based on evidence in the form of material supplied by the Government, including communicat­ions such as WhatsApps, emails and photograph­s from the official Downing Street photograph­er [and] evidence from witnesses who were present either at the time of the gatherings or at the time of preparatio­n for Mr Johnson’s statements to parliament.

‘Sue Gray was present at neither and is not one of those witnesses.’

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