Boris Johnson erupts at ‘complete nonsense’ in Partygate grilling
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After a four-hour grilling by MPs yesterday, Boris Johnson’s fate is now in the hands of the Privileges Committee after facing a barrage of questions on what he knew about parties held in Downing Street during lockdown, and why he denied their existence.
While Mr Johnson has accepted he misled the Commons with his Partygate denials, he said he did not do so “recklessly” or deliberately.
He claimed he made his denials to Parliament “in good faith” on the advice of his officials, which he now concedes turned out to be wrong. But he told the committee hearing: “I’m here to say to you, hand on heart, I did not lie to the House.”
Here, the Daily Express will answer key questions about what happens next for the former PM.
When will the Privileges Committee publish their verdict?
With parliamentary recess beginning next Thursday, it is unlikely that the Committee will publish their verdict in the coming days.
Its findings are expected next month at the earliest, and with a parliamentary recess until April 17 it could drag on into late spring or early summer.
The Guardian reports Mr Johnson will be given two weeks’ notice of the committee’s final report’s findings, giving him the opportunity to respond pre-publication.
POLL: Should Boris Johnson be suspended over Partygate saga?
Who is deciding Boris Johnson’s fate?
While Labour MP – and staunch Johnson critic – Harriet Harman chairs the Privileges Committee, there are six other MPs who sit alongside her on the committee in charge of Mr Johnson’s fate. The makeup of the committee reflects the balance of parties in the House of Commons as a whole, with Conservative MPs holding a majority. There are four Tory MPs on the committee, two Labour MPs and one SNP MP.
Despite Tory MPs being in the majority, pro-Boris allies have pointed to statements and actions from them over the past four years that indicate none of them are supporters of the former Prime Minister.
Harriet Harman has also been accused of pre-judging the outcome, having tweeted that by accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice for his birthday bash, Mr Johnson admitted he “misled the House of Commons”.
What happens if Boris Johnson is found to have misled the privileges committee?
Firstly the Privileges Committee could conclude Mr Johnson didn’t recklessly or deliberately mislead parliament over his party denials. In this unlikely event, Mr Johnson would be cleared and be free to move on.
It is believed the committee will judge he misled parliament, however, whether recklessly or deliberately.
The committee will then recommend a sanction, expected to be a suspension from the House of Commons for a certain number of days.
Mr Johnson and his team will be hoping the number of days he is suspended for is no greater than 14 days total, or 10 sitting days.
If he receives a suspension of over 10 sitting days, his political career could be on the line thanks to a 2015 law called the Recall of MPs Act.
Speaking to the Daily Express one Tory MP speculated Mr Johnson’s main hope for survival is that the Tory MPs on the committee force a suspension from the house of fewer than 10 sitting days. After which he could return and carry on his Parliamentary work as normal.
How might Boris Johnson lose his seat?
Under the terms of the 2015 Recall Act, any MP suspended from the House of Commons for more than 10 sitting days, their constituents will be allowed to sign a recall petition. The petition will be open for six weeks.
If 10 percent of eligible registered voters in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency sign the petition, a by-election will then be triggered.
If the 10 percent threshold is not met, Mr Johnson will be able to continue as an MP.
Since the recall rules were introduced, three recall petitions have been held.
Two of the three reached the 10 percent threshold – Peterborough in 2019 hit 25 percent of registered voters and Brecon and Radnorshire in 2019 received 19 percent of electors’ signatures.
Both MPs subsequently lost their seats.
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Could Boris Johnson stand in a by-election?
Under the terms of parliamentary recall, if the threshold for a by-election is reached the incumbent MP is allowed to stand as a candidate.
Boris would then have to decide whether to stand as the Conservative candidate in his West London seat, potentially forcing Rishi Sunak to spend tens of thousands on a by-election campaign to save his predecessor but one.
Should Boris Johnson win the by-election, he would continue as an MP until the next General Election.
If he lost, he would be out of Parliament and his political career halted.
A by-election defeat would not prevent Boris from standing as a Tory candidate again at the subsequent General Election.
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