Great Britain: “Hand on heart”: Johnson fights for political future

Great Britain: “Hand on heart”: Johnson fights for political future

Great Britain
“Hand on heart”: Johnson fights for political future

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson testifies before the House of Commons Privileges Committee in London.  Photo: House of Commons/UK Parliament/U

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson testifies before the House of Commons Privileges Committee in London. photo

© House of Commons/UK Parliament/UK Parliament/AP/dpa

It is a crucial day for Boris Johnson. But the ex-prime minister has received little support for his confrontational course against his successor Sunak. The question remains whether Johnson lied to Parliament.

On his return to the big political stage Boris Johnson suffered a slump. Few MPs from his Conservative Party followed the former prime minister in a revolt against his successor, Rishi Sunak.

At the same time, Johnson fought allegations before a parliamentary committee that he had lied to the British Parliament in the “Partygate” affair. A good six months after his forced departure from the Downing St it was also about the political future of the 58-year-old populist and narcissist.

First, there is the “Partygate” affair that is catching up with Johnson. He had regularly emphasized in the House of Commons that Downing Street was always the corona-Followed the rules – although new details about illegal lockdown parties became known almost daily. Did he lie to the House of Commons? Clarifying that is the task of the Privileges Committee, a parliamentary committee. Johnson was allowed to spend more than £220,000 (€250,000) in tax money on his defence.

Johnson: “Didn’t lie to the House of Commons”

“I’m here to tell you – hand on heart – that I didn’t lie to the House of Commons,” said the former prime minister at the beginning of his hour-long questioning. Then, with anger in his voice, he addresses the committee. There is no evidence for the allegations, he said. Unknowingly wrong tasks: yes, he didn’t know any better at the time. intent? no way. Photos of him and staff with alcohol on a table? “People who say we’ve had lockdown parties just don’t know what they’re talking about,” Johnson said. Tory Bernard Jenkin criticized his party colleague: “I don’t think we agree with your interpretation of the guidelines.”

At the same time, the House of Commons voted on the Northern Ireland agreement, which the incumbent Prime Minister Sunak concluded after a long dispute with the EU. But Brexit hardliners and Northern Ireland Unionists are opposed to the deal, which aims to facilitate trade between the British provinces and the rest of the UK. Without further ado, Johnson headed the opposition within the party and announced that he would oppose sunaks agreement to agree. But in the end only 22 Tory members followed their former leader – a victory for Sunak, former Treasury Secretary under Johnson.

For the ex-Prime Minister, who has never hidden his ambitions to return to Downing Street, his future is at stake. “Johnson will try desperately today to keep the flame of his political career alive,” commented the conservative online portal “Unherd”. The well-connected Times reporter Steven Swinford speaks of a “test of strength” for both Sunak and Johnson. Some suspect calculation: Sunak wants to get rid of his internal adversary. Sky News correspondent Sam Coates tweeted: “The fact that (both dates) are scheduled for the same day suggests Number 10 want to symbolically bury him politically in one day.”

Johnson is still regarded, above all by the conservative base, as the best campaigner who could still lead the Tories from the currently hopeless polling low to victory in 2024. But the number of his supporters is dwindling. “Voters once loved his lies, but claiming he didn’t understand his own rules has turned him into yet another dodgy politician,” commented Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein.

In its interim report, the Privileges Committee made it clear that it must have been “obvious” to Johnson that Corona rules had been broken at Downing Street. In one case, Johnson himself received a fine. Newly released documents also contradict Johnson’s claims that employees assured him that the meetings were legal.

Johnson could lose mandate if suspended

Should the seven-member committee from Tories and opposition Labor and SNP parties decide that Parliament has been lied to, the House of Commons will decide on a suspension – which could result in Johnson losing his seat altogether. He doesn’t have much backing: Sunak has already made it clear that there will be no faction coercion in such a case.

For the incumbent prime minister, a political end to his predecessor would mean a boost. With solid measures, he has steered the once scandal-ridden British politics into calmer waters. “Every day that Sunak does a good job as Prime Minister, the prospects of Johnson’s comeback diminish,” the online portal “Politico” quoted a Tory loyal to Sunak as saying. The ex’s disruptive maneuvers come at the wrong time. But Sunak doesn’t want to be distracted. The prime minister will not follow the hearing, his spokesman said. He has a packed schedule.


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