Boris Johnson has admitted he inadvertently misled parliament in a series of statements he made in relation to partygate.
But setting out his defence ahead of an appearance at the privileges committee tomorrow, the former prime minister insisted his comments were delivered “in good faith” and that he believed them to be true at the time.
It’s his response to allegations he broke the Palace of Westminster’s rules, as set out in a book called Erskine May’s Parliamentary Procedure, which says: “The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.”
Here we take a look at each of the three Commons statements the committee is investigating and set out Mr Johnson’s explanation for how he played by the rules:
Alleged rule breach 1
Date: 1 December 2021
What Boris Johnson said: “What I can tell the right honourable and learned gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in Number 10.”
His defence: Mr Johnson said he became aware the Daily Mirror was planning to run a story on alleged lockdown breaking at a gathering on 30 November 2021 – around the time of the Omicron variant and new restrictions being voted through Parliament.
He said his director of communications, Jack Doyle, came to see him that evening about an email the paper’s political editor had sent – his diary recorded this meeting between 6pm and 6.05pm – making allegations about four parties.
“I did not see the email myself and the only event I can recall Jack mentioning in any detail was the one held in the press office on 18 December 2020, which I had not attended,” said the then PM.
“The email mentions two other events – on 13 November 2020 and 27 November 2020 – which I do not recall Jack bringing up but I accept that he may have. These were ones that I had attended.”
But he said had Mr Doyle mentioned them, he would have been “confident” they had complied with the COVID rules at the time due to his own attendance.
Back to 18 December, and Mr Johnson said he felt it was “implausible” the COVID rules had been broken.
After hearing Mr Doyle’s description of the gathering, Mr Johnson said he believed it.
And in his evidence to the privileges committee, he sought to add context to the experience of Downing Street staff.
For the then PM, drinking wine at a person’s desk was not rule breaking under the rules he had brought into force.
The press was briefed “COVID rules were followed at all times” and Mr Johnson said he “did not anticipate that this would be a big story”, even saying he was “surprised” when Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised it at Prime Minister’s Questions on 1 December.
Sir Keir asked: “As millions of people were locked down last year, was a Christmas party thrown in Downing Street for dozens of people on 18 December?”
Mr Johnson responded: “Based on the conversations that I had had the previous day and that morning… What I can tell the right honourable and learned gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in Number 10.”
And while he said he meant to repeat the exact line given to the Daily Mirror the night before, he said he did believe all guidance had been followed based on his understanding of the rules.
He said: “I did not mean that social distancing was complied with perfectly in Number 10, but this was not required by the guidance.”
He said he “relied on my knowledge of those events for the periods which I attended”.
He also added: “Number 10 and the Cabinet Office are very large departments. I believed that if anyone witnessed something that they considered to be illegal or contrary to guidance, I would have been made aware of it.”
Evidence supporting him: Mr Johnson said it was fair to accept he believed everyone was following the rules and guidance because “this belief was shared by many others” – pointing to six individuals.
The names of three of them – all Number 10 officials – have been redacted, but his principle private secretary, Martin Reynolds, his official spokesman (later promoted to director of communications) James Slack, and Mr Doyle were named.
In his written evidence to the committee, Mr Reynolds wrote that he and others “involved in organising and attending the gatherings” believed they were following regulations and that decisions “were taken in good faith and were reasonable on a common-sense reading of the relevant regulations”.
He also said he believed “all senior staff in Downing Street”, assumed the events were lawful too, both political staff and civil servants, saying: “They spoke at, attended or were aware of some, or all, of the gatherings. The attendees included some of those responsible for the regulations. I believe in-house lawyers were copied in to some invitations.”
In an interview that came as part of Sue Gray’s partygate investigation, Mr Slack said: “I honestly don’t think that anyone who was in that room was breaking any rules. They were with their colleagues who they sat with all day every day for 12 hours.
“Were there additional elements to that? Yes. That was a reflection of the specific circumstances of the end of the year. Everyone in the office knew that they were public servants and wouldn’t have done it if they thought they were breaking rules.”
Mr Johnson also cited a WhatsApp conversation between him and Mr Doyle on 10 December, where the then PM said: “Is there a way we could get the truth about this party out there.”
In conclusion, Mr Johnson said: “In hindsight, I accept that my statement to Parliament on 1 December 2021, although reasonably and honestly believed at the time, did mislead the House.
“If I had been aware of this information, I would obviously not have stood up in Parliament and said what I said.”
Alleged rule breach 2
Date: 8 December 2021
What Boris Johnson said: “I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken – that is what I have been repeatedly assured.”
His defence: The day before Mr Johnson made this statement to the House, the footage of Allegra Stratton joking about a lockdown event taking place on 18 December 2020 in Downing Street was published by ITV.
The then PM said he had “not previously seen this video” and it caused him “immediate concern”, but in the evening Mr Doyle sent him a WhatApp saying: “I think you can say ‘I’ve been assured there was no party and no rules were broken’.”
Mr Johnson said he later called Mr Slack “who I regard as a man of great integrity and who was in the building on the evening of 18 December 2020”, and he also confirmed that the rules had been followed.
But as he “remained concerned”, he decided he needed to commission an investigation to “find out precisely what happened at the event in question”, and spoke to cabinet secretary Simon Case that night, asking him to carry it out.
Mr Johnson received another WhatsApp from Mr Doyle the following morning with a proposed wording for a statement: “I sought and was given reassurance no rules were broken and no party took place.”
The details were thrashed out in an email chain “which involved numerous civil servants and advisers”, and after a large meeting, a statement was agreed.
The PM went to the House and ahead of PMQs said: “I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken. That is what I have been repeatedly assured.”
He also confirmed the independent inquiry, which was due to be led by Mr Case – before he was later found to have attended a gathering and recused himself.
In his evidence to the committee, Mr Johnson said: “This statement was entirely accurate, and I do not believe that the House has been misled by it.”
He said the statement “related exclusively to the event on 18 December discussed by Ms Stratton – “the focus of the media storm”.
And he said he told MPs “what I honestly believed based on my own understanding, and what I had been told by others – but I acknowledged that the truth would be established independently, and that I might subsequently be found to have been wrong”.
Evidence supporting him: First, Mr Johnson included Mr Doyle’s interview with Sue Gray over what he had told the PM about the events.
Asked if he gave the repeated assurances, Mr Doyle said the pair had a conversation “and the only thing I said to the PM was that I didn’t regard this as a party and we didn’t believe the rules had been broken and that’s what we said at lobby – the rules is a judgment for others, it was not an organised party”.
The then PM also said the “repeated assurances” he was given were witnessed by two Tory MPs – Andrew Griffiths and Sarah Dines.
And Mr Reynolds said: “I believe that reassurances were provided by some of the senior communications team staff who were present at the event, including Jack Doyle.”
Alleged rule breach 3
Date: 8 December 2021
What Boris Johnson said: “No but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
His defence: In the same PMQs sessions, Labour MP Catherine West asked Mr Johnson whether there had been a party on 13 November amid rumours of a fresh story.
It was later confirmed a leaving party did take place in Downing Street on that date – though rumours of a “victory party” taking place in the PM’s flat the same day Dominic Cummings left his post have been denied.
Replying to the MP’s question though, Mr Johnson said: “No but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
In his evidence, Mr Johnson said: “I appreciate that the meaning of this statement is not entirely clear. At the time, I did not know what event Catherine West MP was referring to, and it remains unclear.”
He revealed he did attend two events on that day, but again said he believed he had acted in line with the rules.
Evidence supporting him: Again it is principle private secretary Mr Reynolds who Mr Johnson uses to back up his claims.
In his statement to the committee, Mr Reynolds said: “I believe that at the time the story broke in November 2020 there was a collective belief in the Cabinet Office and Downing Street that we had operated within the rules during lockdown and that any events which took place had been legitimate, work-related gatherings”.
Turkish election: Erdogan has once again proved critics wrong and out-manoeuvred his toughest challengers
The man who revels in his image as Turkey’s strongman took an early lead almost as soon as polls closed in the second round of voting for president.
Celebrations began long before the official declaration. But in truth, the dye was cast some time ago, before the election.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s demeanour even before campaigning began for the unprecedented run-off has been one of a leader comfortably confident of securing his third decade in power in a country that holds a uniquely significant geographical position in the world.
Turkey election latest:
Erdogan thanks crowds as election officials declare him winner
From the time he voted in the first round to extend his time as president, he appeared supremely relaxed about his chances of winning.
This was despite the polls showing him trailing behind his challenger, the leader of a six-party alliance called Kemal Kilicdoroglu.
Mr Erdogan’s re-election comes in the teeth of a spiralling economy, rampant inflation and in the wake of a horrific natural disaster clouded by accusations his government was slow to respond.
“We are so happy,” one of his fans told us outside his Istanbul home. “Our economy is good….OK, it’s been bad for two years but we trust him and he will do his best.”
“Bye bye Kemal,” others told us. “Erdogan is our strong leader,” was the mantra repeated to us over and over again.
The people gathered waving flags, setting off fireworks and singing and dancing down the roads leading to his home in the Uskudar district of the city were predominantly religious conservatives, many of them women, mostly wearing hijabs and conservative Muslim clothing.
“We love Erdogan,” they told us.
Within an hour or so of polls closing, with just 55% of votes counted, the incumbent had already built a hefty lead, according to the state broadcaster TRT.
That very early lead never seemed likely to change.
Later counting narrowed the gap somewhat but the sitting president still managed to secure more than half of the votes cast with his rival trailing roughly four points behind. (Latest official figures at the time of writing show 52.1% to Mr Erdogan and 47.8% for Mr Kilicdaroglu.)
This was the closest President Erdogan had come to being unseated was how the opposition and most Western media framed the outcome of the first round.
But in reality, the odds were always heavily stacked against any electoral upset or success by his rival.
Mr Erdogan has spent his two decades at the helm consolidating his power – cracking down on dissent, intimidating and jailing opposition politicians and journalists and ensuring the Turkish media is mostly state-controlled and compliant.
International observers in the country who were monitoring the initial vote criticised Mr Erdogan’s use of state resources and his control of the media to unduly influence the electorate.
Once the dust has settled, they’re likely to voice the same concerns this time around.
In his concession speech, Mr Kilicdoruglu called it the “most unjust election campaign ever” referring to the heavily-biased coverage of the president’s campaign in most Turkish outlets rather than his.
When we managed to get close enough to question the sitting leader about whether he’d accept the outcome of the vote whatever the result (in the first round), we were sharply rebuked by him for questioning his approach and his ‘history’ over the past 20 years.
“That is a very bad question,” he told me.
“You don’t know me and how I’ve been over the past 20 years,” he scolded me as his security detail and political team rushed to move him on quickly.
His critics believe his next five years in office are likely to see him take the country further down the autocratic path he embarked on several years ago.
It’s a path made smoother after his AK Party gained 266 seats in the parliamentary elections, resulting in a commanding total of 321 including his coalition partners.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Who is Turkey’s president?
Who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu – the man who wanted to end Erdogan’s reign?
If his campaigning over the past two weeks and his repeated criticism of how Western journalists have covered the elections are anything to go by, President Erdogan is likely to ratchet up his strained relationship with the foreign media and those nations critical of his leadership.
At one rally he told his supporters: “We are competing against those trying to disrupt the century of Turkey.
“Magazines have covers reading Erdogan must go. It’s none of your business. The West cannot decide it. It is up to my nation.”
Mr Erdogan’s influence during his years in power on international affairs like the Russia-Ukraine war and the European migration crisis has been crucial. And he has used his position skilfully.
A largely suspicious West has seen him manoeuvre himself into a pivotal global spot – able to talk to the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine as well as America and Iran – and building essential bridges with key economic powers like Saudi Arabia, as well as sending peacekeeping troops to countries like Somalia and Libya.
He has visited African countries more times than any other non-African leader during his time in office.
The West will be disappointed with Erdogan’s electoral success
As a member of NATO, he’s shown he can wield considerable clout for political gain as he’s demonstrated recently with the delayed but final acceptance of Finland into the club.
Turkey’s acquiescence only came after Finland agreed to take a harder line against Kurdish dissidents and the Kurdish PKK party.
Now on his home turf, he has once again proved the critics wrong and outmanoeuvred his toughest challengers and his grip on power seems unassailable.
Turkey elections: Putin and Zelenskyy among world leaders to congratulate Erdogan on election victory
Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy have joined world leaders in congratulating Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his election win.
In a letter to president Erdogan celebrating his narrow run-off victory on Sunday, Mr Putin addressed the Turkish leader as “Dear Friend” and praised his efforts at strengthening Russian-Turkish relations.
“From the bottom of my heart I wish you new successes in such a responsible activity as the head of state, as well as good health and well-being,” he added.
Mr Zelensky also offered his congratulations to Mr Erdogan and spoke of the need for the “further strengthening” of Ukraine and Turkey’s “strategic” partnership.
He was joined by Western leaders, such as Rishi Sunak, Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, who took to Twitter to share congratulate Mr Erdogan on his election win.
Turkey holds an important position in world politics, in part because of its geographical location as the junction between Europe and Asia – in particular the Middle East.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey also holds increasing importance as the gatekeeper to the Black Sea and has been central in negotiating crucial deals to maintain the export of Ukrainian grain.
Though a NATO country – and one which has in the past pushed for European Union membership – Turkey maintains diplomatic relations with Russia.
In his letter of congratulations to Mr Erdogan, Mr Putin talked about the development of the joint Turkish-Russian Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the creation of a gas hub in Turkey.
‘Russia must return land to Ukraine’
Mr Erdogan, however, has also in the past talked about the importance of maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity and securing a peace deal to end the conflict.
In September last year, when asked whether Russia should be able to keep its territorial gains, he told US public broadcaster PBS: “No, and undoubtedly no.
“If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important. This is what is expected.”
Turkey election latest:
Erdogan thanks crowds as election officials declare him winner
Western leaders, including the UK’s prime minister, have also been keen to push the idea of a “strong relationship” between Turkey and the West.
In a statement, a Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Sunak and Mr Erodgan had spoken since his election victory was confirmed.
“The prime minister reiterated the strong relationship between the United Kingdom and Turkey, as economic partners and close NATO allies,” a spokesperson said.
“The leaders agreed to continue working closely together to address shared challenges.”
Five more years
With 99% of the votes counted, Mr Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, won with a share of 52.1%.
It means he has secured a record-breaking third term as president and will serve at least five more years in power.
Polls closed at 5pm local time (3pm BST) and while votes were counted fast, for hours it remained too close to call. At one point, less than a percentage point separated the incumbent from his rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Shortly after 8pm local time (6pm BST) Mr Erdogan stepped out of his home and thanked people for “giving us the responsibility to rule for the next five years”.
Opponent refuses to admit defeat
Kemal Kilicdaroglu took the stage earlier this evening, and in a rousing speech, he refused to admit defeat.
“I wasn’t able to defend your rights,” Kilicdaroglu began by saying. “I did not shirk against an unjust structure, I could not be a silent devil and I was not.
“I could not stand quiet against millions of people becoming second-class citizens in this country.
“I could not let them stand all over your rights. For your children to go to bed hungry. For farmers to not to be able to produce. I could not allow these things.”
He concluded by thanking the 25 million people who voted for him – and says the “battle continues”.
First presidential run-off in Turkey’s history
The pair were forced to go head-to-head when neither reached the required 50% of the vote in the first round on 14 May and Mr Erdogan’s win will have profound consequences for Turkey, and the wider world.
The two candidates offered sharply different visions of the country’s future and its recent past.
Mr Erdogan’s government vetoed Sweden’s bid to join NATO and purchased Russian missile-defence systems, which prompted the US to oust Turkey from a US-led fighter-jet project.
But it also helped broker a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments and averted a global food crisis.
Meanwhile, Mr Erdogan’s 74-year-old challenger promised to restore a more democratic society.
Two dead and two missing as boat carrying British tourists overturns in whirlwind on Italian lake
A boat carrying at least 20 tourists and crew members has overturned in a whirlwind on Italy’s Lake Maggiore.
At least two people have died and two other remain missing, according to Italian media reports.
Italy’s fire service said 19 people have been saved, with many reportedly managing to swim to shore.
Sky Italia reported that British passengers were aboard the vessel.
Rescue operations are continuing with divers, boats and a helicopter spotted at the scene.
Firefighter video showed pieces of wood floating in the lake as a helicopter flew overhead.
The whirlwind was part of a storm system that hit the northern region of Lombardy on Sunday evening, forcing delays at the Malpensa airport.
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