The National:

BORIS Johnson has published a 52-page document laying out his defence as MPs probe whether he deliberately misled parliament over the partygate scandal.

It is a desperate bid from the former prime minister to avoid even more public humiliation, ahead of what is expected to be a marathon grilling session in front of the Privileges Committee on Wednesday.

Ahead of the session, which the media will be watching with keen interest, the Jouker had a read through the whole of Johnson’s submitted defence.

Here are some of the most ridiculous or surprising parts…

Old, cramped No 10

The National: LONDON - FEBRUARY 25:  A general view of the door for Number 10 Downing Street on February 25, 2010 in London, England. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that the economy,

Johnson consistently argues that Covid social distancing guidance probably wasn’t followed all the time because of the working environment. “We tried to keep our distance, but we knew that proximity was sometimes unavoidable,” the Tory MP writes.

To hammer home this point, Johnson takes aim at a minor character in the story: No 10 Downing Street.

He says of the house – which incidentally has more than 100 rooms: “No 10 is an old, cramped London townhouse.”

The UK Government’s own website states: “The building is much larger than it appears from its frontage … The house in Downing Street was joined to a more spacious and elegant building behind it in the early 18th century.”

Right then.

Boris Johnson mocks himself?

In one interesting part of the defence, Johnson quotes a [redacted] No 10 official who wrote of the partygate scandal in Tatler magazine.

The quote states: “What actually happened is that we agreed to go our separate ways and I went to the press team to say goodbye.

“The PM, unable to see a group of people and not orate, gave a painful, off-the-cuff speech to a bewildered clutch of advisers.”

Johnson adds: “That is an accurate recollection.”

That birthday party

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at a gathering in the Cabinet Room in 10 Downing Street on his birthday

The London Met issued Johnson with just one fine over partygate, for attending a birthday event on June 19, 2020. In his defence documents, the former prime minister tries to downplay this event as much as possible. He ends up making it sounds thoroughly sad.

“We had a sandwich lunch … No cake was eaten, and no-one even sang ‘happy birthday’.”

Poor old Boris.

Interestingly, he also argues here: “I was in the Cabinet Room for a work meeting and was joined by a small gathering of people, all of whom lived or were working in the building.”

The argument that it was a “work meeting” attended by people who – by Johnson’s own admission – just happened to “live” in the building will surely be noticed by MPs.

Not a party?

On 8 December 2021, Johnson told MPs: “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.”

But two days later, according to Johnson’s own evidence, he sent a WhatsApp message to Downing Street director of communications Jack Doyle which said: “Is there a way we could get the truth about this party out there.”

He insisted the message implies that the “truth” is that no rules were broken, adding: “I used ‘party’ as shorthand because that it [sic] how it was being referred to in the media.”

The National:

No remit?

One of the key arguments made early on in the document is that the Privileges Committee has no remit to investigate any breaches of Covid guidance.

Johnson argues instead that the MPs can only look at breaches of Covid laws.

This nitpicking line isn’t likely to hold, considering the committee’s remit is to probe whether he deliberately misled parliament.

In just one example, Johnson told the Commons: “All guidance was followed completely in No 10.”

It would seem that probing guidance breaches is made a part of the committee’s remit by Johnson’s own statement.