If you didn’t watch the Johnson lie/excusathon, here’s a potted summary. Disappointingly, the King James Bible did not spontaneously combust at the touch of the former PM’s mendacious fingers, but the smell of burning boxer shorts was definitely in the air.
The Privileges Committee’s questioning, under Harriet Harman’s quietly authoritative chairmanship, was a model of professionalism and persistence. Johnson clearly thought it outrageous that anyone should consider themselves worthy to challenge his version of reality and the bullish bombast of his opening statement gradually gave way to a tetchiness which then descended into barely suppressed rage.
He singularly failed to grasp that the charge was not that he had been at parties or that there had been parties. It was that he had repeatedly told the House that the rules and guidelines had been observed at all times and in doing so, he had deliberately or recklessly misled the House.
He kept banging on about how it was essential to have farewell parties for the conveyor belt of departing staff, that they were allowed to be one metre apart if it was too difficult to keep to two, that mitigations were in place albeit in other rooms ( this was SO crazy!!), that he couldn’t remember ever saying ‘this is the most unsocially-distanced event’ and that really the legality or otherwise of any event depended on how long you stayed there.
We learned that people working in Number 10 tried to prevent the spread of Covid by ‘not sharing pens’, but were happy to risk spreading it by sharing bottles.
And Johnson was all over the place on his arguments because, well, lies are so damned hard to remember, especially when you have absolutely no regard for or grip on the truth.
At the time he told his porkies in the House, he kept emphasising how ‘I’ve been advised that/ I have been assured that…’ but could he evidence that advice, that assurance? Could he, hell!
At one point he delivered this absolute bullet-to-the-foot classic:
“I wouldn’t wish to say it was perfectly implemented… This was guidance and I’m not going to pretend that it was enforced rigidly.”
At which point, Sir Bernard Jenkin (who was totally on fire, but not in the pants department) pointed out that it was a great pity he had not told the House that in the first place as they wouldn’t be grilling him now!
The standout performances came from Bernard Jenkin and Albert0 Costa, both Conservative MPs, with Charles Walker in a fine supporting role.
And it was Sir Bernard who finally nailed him on the charge which will/should/must stick: why on earth did he assert what he did about the compliance with the rules without checking the truth of his assertion with a lawyer?
Why? Because Johnson’s world view, his truth, his reality are all projections of his ego. No other version of anything matters one jot to him.
Finally, towards the end ( oh, please, let it be the end!!) Johnson, in Trumpian tribute mode, doggedly attempted to bully the committee into believing that any outcome other than ‘innocent’ would be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
They weren’t having any of it.
And it seems that very few of us are having any of it, either.
As we tweeted over the closing moments:
‘He was very calmly and thoroughly roasted. He shot himself in the foot so many times that he can have no feet left. They’re going to get him on reckless. Shame . Would have preferred deliberate.’
And just a reminder of what honest people were doing, honest people who were working even harder and facing personal risk and trauma: