Boris Johnson is likely to accept a finding that stated he recklessly misguided Parliament over lockdown parties to avoid a by-election that could end his political career, claim MP allies. It is reported that the former Prime Minister might accept the decision as a “political reality” and the fact that the MPs on the privileges committee might find him guilty of wrongdoing after investigating him for nearly 12 months.
Mr Johnson has reportedly made in clear to allies that he will refuse to admit any wrongdoing at the lockdown-breaking parties in Number 10 that led to him leaving office.
However, it is believed that Mr Johnson would accept a verdict of “recklessly” misleading Parliament rather than “intentionally” doing so, according to the Telegraph.
The publication stated that by accepting the decision, he could get a ban from the Commons of fewer than 10 days – below the threshold that would trigger a recall by-election.
MPs on the committee are investigating whether Mr Johnson recklessly or intentionally misled Parliament over what he knew about Number 10 parties during the pandemic.
The committee hinted in its questioning of Mr Johnson last week that it was moving towards a finding that he “recklessly” rather than “deliberately” misled Parliament.
Towards the end of the three-hour session, Sir Charles Walker, one of the MPs, asked him: “If not deliberate, is it possible that it was reckless, or slightly reckless, not to have caveated your statements to the House with ‘to the best of my knowledge’ or ‘I really do hope’?
“It was the certainty of the statements. Is it possible to accept that, actually, there was a degree of recklessness?”
Mr Johnson rejected the offer of accepting the lesser offence, telling Sir Charles: “No. Nobody wants to be in a position where they are misleading the House.”
MP allies of the former prime minister insisted he would not admit that he intentionally or recklessly misled the House, as he is convinced of his innocence.
However, they said that he also recognised the “political reality” of his situation.
One ally told The Telegraph: “He feels that he did not recklessly mislead Parliament but he understands the political world that he operates in. There is a landing zone in the middle.”
The ally made clear that Mr Johnson would accept the verdict of the committee and would not lead a “Trumpian” attack to discredit it.
If the committee finds Mr Johnson guilty of recklessly or intentionally misleading MPs, it can recommend a sanction, likely to be a number of days of suspension from the Commons. This punishment would have to be confirmed by a vote of MPs.
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A suspension of more than 10 days allows the Speaker of the House to order a recall petition, which can lead to a by-election.
One ally said that if Tory MPs were faced with having to vote in the Commons to ban Mr Johnson it could split the party because activists loyal to him would not forgive them.
Number 10 is thought to be desperate to avoid a by-election in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, which he held with a 7,210 majority in 2019.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “Mr Johnson was pleased to give oral evidence to the committee, and will study the findings when those are brought forward in due course.”
On Wednesday, March 22, Mr Johnson gave evidence to the committee in a televised hearing, following the submission of his 52-page written evidence. Mr Johnson admitted he accepts his comments were misleading but denied he made them intentionally.
Last week, Mr Johsnon was grilled by a committee of MPs on whether he intentionally misled Parliament over lockdown-era gatherings at No 10.
He was pressed repeatedly over how he could not have known that various events – including leaving dos – breached guidance and rules.
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