Government lawyer advising Boris Johnson says Partygate inquiry is flawed

Not a party? This shot was taken during a Christmas quiz at Downing Street – note the tinsel around one person’s neck and the open bottle of alcoholic beverage. Johnson later said all Covid-19 rules were followed at these events – including those for which he and others were fined. Was he lying? That’s what the current inquiry is tasked with determining.

Why is a Cabinet Office lawyer advising a private individual – Boris Johnson – on Partygate?

Apparently a decision by the Commons Privileges committee, that is investigating whether Johnson misled Parliament over the Partygate scandal, that it does not have to prove that he intended to do so, to prove contempt of Parliament.

But Lord Pannick, the legal eagle hired by the government to examine the committee’s approach, said the inquiry needs to establish “that Mr Johnson intended to mislead the House [of Commons] – that is that he knew that what he told the House was incorrect”.

He added that that “the threat of contempt proceedings for unintentional mistakes would have a seriously chilling effect” on MPs.

He said the committee’s approach is inconsistent with past cases where intent was taken into account and the process would be deemed “unlawful” if it was tested in a court.

And he criticised the committee for taking evidence anonymously and said Mr Johnson should be told the detail of the case against him.

The committee’s own lawyer, former judge Sir Ernest Ryder, has already said potential witnesses may not be prepared to give evidence if their identity is made public.

The committee’s spokesperson said it will respond to the other criticisms in due course.

But the fact that Pannick was commissioned to act on Johnson’s behalf suggests that the government is still trying to interfere with Parliamentary process and has learned nothing from the results of – for example – the Owen Paterson scandal.

It seems we won’t be free of the stench of corruption around Boris Johnson – even after he has stopped being prime minister.

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