Kwarteng: Johnson could survive Partygate grills and lead Tories again | Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson could emerge from a TV grill next week after claiming he misled Parliament over Partygate and go on to lead the Conservative Party again, a former Cabinet minister has claimed.
Kwasi Kwarteng, who was appointed business secretary by Johnson before a short-lived stint as chancellor under Liz Truss – which ended after her notorious mini-budget – said he would ‘never rule out’ a Johnson’s return to frontline politics.
He spoke as a nine-month investigation into allegations that Johnson misled MPs into denying that any Covid rules were broken at No 10 during lockdown comes to a head when he is dragged before the cross-party privileges committee.
Johnson is set to be quizzed for up to four hours over his knowledge of the law-breaking gatherings, for which Scotland Yard imposed more than 100 fines, leading to mounting pressure among Tory MPs for him to resign.
Johnson practiced for the televised hearing with his legal team, with a “bombshell” document of dozens of pages prepared by his attorneys that will set out his defense.
It will be sent to the committee on Monday afternoon and is said to be a detailed factual rebuttal to the suggestion that he knowingly misled Parliament.
Johnson was allowed to release its own written evidence by the committee, which also pledged to release “as soon as possible” to exercise due diligence, such as removing the names of officials.
On hand to offer legal advice to Johnson at the hearing at 2.30pm on Wednesday will be Lord Pannick KC. However, the former Prime Minister will have to personally answer all questions.
Kwarteng said Johnson was an “extremely smart, sensitive and brilliant person” and suggested he could walk away unscathed from the hearing.
“I think he’s been struck off so many times,” the former chancellor told GB News. “The last 25 years, the number of articles I’ve read saying it’s over, it’s over and it’s over.
“I think anything can happen. I think he could lead the party again, I think he’s someone I would never rule out or count.
Kwarteng added that the Tories’ hope of winning the next general election “rests on one fact, and that fact should be Conservative unity” and stressed that colleagues “must support the Prime Minister…as one”. .
Johnson’s allies are testing the support he enjoys among his colleagues, to gauge how many might vote against any sanction recommended by the committee.
They fear the harshest penalty imposed will be a suspension of Parliament for 10 days – triggering a recall petition and a possible by-election in Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Office minister, said on Sunday it was ‘standard practice’ that so-called House business was not flogged, meaning MPs would likely get a free vote instead.
Johnson’s supporters have long sought to discredit the investigation. Over the weekend they stepped up their attacks on the inquiry which all MPs voted to start last April.
Lord Cruddas, a former Tory party treasurer who Johnson gave a peerage in 2020, urged the privileges committee not to rely on a report on illegal parties compiled by senior civil servant Sue Gray, given that she then accepted a job offer from Labour.
A petition has also been launched by the Conservative Post’s website, which called on the four Tory MPs who make up the majority of committee members to step down.
Warnings that the ‘witch hunt’ was evidence of a ‘McCarthyist approach to justice’ were issued over the weekend by Lord Greenhalgh, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Democrat Organisation.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said: ‘The privileges committee will vindicate Boris Johnson’s position. The evidence will show that Boris Johnson did not knowingly mislead Parliament.