Ian Dunt Profile picture
Mar 22 223 tweets >60 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Right, with all the enthusiasm of a man being dragged to the gallows, I'm going to live tweet the shenanigans this afternoon. Please mute this thread now if it's not your thing.
The 90 minute debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol solution has just kicked off. I'll cover it until Boris Johnson faces the privileges committee at 2pm, then switch to that, then switch back to the vote at around 2:30pm, and then back to Johnson fuck my life.
You can watch the debate here. It's pretty dead in there. Surprisingly so. parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0e…
The debate and vote are on a statutory instrument implementing the Windsor framework. SIs are the vehicles which enact ministerial powers. They basically turn them into little mini-parliaments who can act with a bare minimum of parliamentary scrutiny.
They are hardly ever defeated in the Commons. What you're seeing now is about as much scrutiny as any SI is ever subject to. But it still means MPs get just 90 minutes to chat about it.
The DUP's Jim Shannon claims first blood. "It has, I say this respectfully to the secretary of state, has been shoved through the House by the government. The Conservative and Unionist party.... with some dismay I actually question now. Conservative, but where's the Unionist?"
Bumbling Brexiter Tory MP Frank Mancois, the idiot's idiot, says he "respectfully disagrees" with the sec of state. The supposed veto is in fact a route to arbitration, he insists. Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris says it's both.
Quite boring so far to be honest, and much less bloody than we might have expected given the range of prominent Conservatives promising to vote against it this morning.
One by one they're creeping out though. John Redwood, vulture-based Spiderman villain, is next up. "Why do EU laws apply to businesses in NI under this agreement that are not trading with the EU?"
Ian Paisley, DUP, is discovering the grotesque consequences of his own actions. "Isn't it the case that every single lorry vehicle that will depart the port of Cairnryan to NI will have to have customs declaration papers for every product on that vehicle?"
Michael Fabricant, a man so preposterous one has to constantly remind oneself that he truly exists, says everything manufactured in NI has to meet EU standards even if it's going to the UK.
Yes Michael, it was in that deal you celebrated and voted for, if only you had the ability to read.
Quite a little rat-a-tat-tat of criticism from the DUP and Tory benches towards the government.
Peter Kyle, shadow sec of state for NI, is up. Reminds the Commons that Labour said it would support any deal improving the Protocol. "It is a pledge that we will be honouring today."
This is the key point really. The reason Sunak can be quite relaxed about this. is because Labour is offering support. The only real question is whether the rebellion is large enough that Sunak has to rely on that support.
Alistair Carmichael stands for the Lib Dems and confirms they will also vote for it, on the basis of cross-party support for the peace process.
Redwood intervenes. "What is the point of rushing through a vote on this protocol when it is the protocol which prevents Stormont meeting which means the protocol will never be used." Don't use up any mental capacity trying to work through that web of madness, it's not worth it.
Kyle just straight up massacres him. "He makes the argument for why you should have voted against the protocol in the first place. We on this side opposed the protocol. He voted for it."
"There are lots of people on that side who I listen to with great interest. But let's just reflect on what the rt hon member said in the run up to the Brexit referendum, the promises he made to the country."
He then lists the usual charge sheet of babbling Brexity nonsense from 2016 - bigger economy, cheaper prices, a US trade deal etc. "There are many people who should be contributing to this debate in a thoughtful way. he I'm afraid isn't one of them."
Redwood didn't love that. Image
Tory MP Julian Smith, who was an exceptional NI secretary and was therefore quickly removed from the position, is up. He says he supports the Windsor framework.
"As someone who has been slightly traumatised by Brexit votes over the years I'm delighted this is the end chapter." And then like some kind of horrible refutation, Bill Cash instinctively stands up to speak. "May I suggest this remains unfinished business?"
There's a lot of laughter, but it's not funny really. It'll never end with these tiresome maniacs. Always some other complaint, as the real world fails to abide by their fantasies.
Bill Cash is up. Weapons grade bullshit incoming.
"All laws passed before we left in relation to the single market still apply to and subjugate the people of NI to the EU. There is no such thing as NI sovereignty." Subjugate, sweet Jesus. Like a child playing with big grown up words they still haven't fully understood.
He's told by a fellow Tory MP that he is labouring under a "pathological denial of reality". Cash, humourless to the last, replies: "References to pathological something or other makes absolutely no sense in relation to constitutional law."
Cash then asked the killer question. "He did vote for the Protocol, that didn't have the Stormont break. Can he explain why he'd vote against this." Cash all at sea trying to answer that one.
The honest answer, of course, is that he wanted Brexit to happen and all his supposedly cherished beliefs on the Union were discarded in order to accomplish that. He knew exactly what he was doing.
State of the rump-ERG. They're fucking knackered man. They're done. Image
OK, I'm going to switch out to the Johnson torture chamber now. You can follow along here. Will switch back when we find out the result of the vote.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/b9…
And off we go. MPs on the committee just waiting for Johnson to come in.
He'll have some lawyers with him, including Lord Pannick, whose rather ingenuous arguments can be clearly seen all over the former PM's submission yesterday, but they can only scribble notes to him, rather than speak directly.
Harriet Harman, chair, begins. She outlines what the committee is looking at: did Johnson mislead the Commons, was in contempt, and was it intentional or reckless. This was required of the committee by a motion from the House.
Important fact there from Harman. Johnson is going to try to discredit the committee as a kangerooo court, In fact, it is responding to a request of the Commons and follows the rules of the Commons.
"Our democracy depends upon trust that what ministers tell MPs in the House of Commons is the truth and without that trust our entire parliamentary democracy is undermined."
Harman says ministers get things wrong, that's fine, they simply routinely correct it. But "misleading intentionally or recklessly or refusing to answer or failing to correct impedes or frustrates the functioning of the House and is contempt."
She's knocking down each of the insinuations Johnson will make one by one. Reminds people that the committee has a party membership reflecting the votes at the last election (like all committees), so there are rather a lot of Tories on it.
Johnson looking pretty unhappy about, well, pretty much everything. Image
Harman now outlining the distinction between rules and guidance. Rules were law you had to follow, guidance were strong suggestions by government. This will be a key distinction later on. I'll explain as we go. But that distinction is one Johnson hopes will save him today.
Harman now showing videos to remind us of Johnson's comments. starting with a December 1st and December 8th 2021 comment during PMQs.
Ie Dec 1st: "All guidance was followed completely in No.10."
Dec 8th: "The guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times."
Harman: "We need to understand why Mr Johnson said to parliament that no rules or guidance we broken in No.10 when we have evidence that he knew what the rules and guidance were and that he was present at gatherings where those rules and guidance were breached."
This is all very odd from a parliament watcher perspective - the TV screen was weird and so is Johnson now swearing an oath on the Bible.
Johnson now making an opening statement. He says "we're all expected to vote in a few minutes... it'll break up what I'm going to say." Harman says she'll suspend if there's a vote, which there will be.
Johnson says the gatherings were wrong, I "bitterly regret it" etc etc. "But the purpose of this enquiry is not to reopen partygate, it is to discover whether or not I lied to parliament, wittingly misled colleagues..."
That wittingly misled is key. Johnson wants only proven active deception to be the test, not Harman's broader test of "recklessly misleading the House".
Both will use the status of parliament to demonstrate that. Johnson will say the Commons cannot function according to Harman's stricter test. But others, like barrister Alexander Horne, say that the Commons can't function well without that stricter test
"When this enquiry was set up I was confident you would find nothing to show I knew anything else, as indeed you have not."
In other words: Johnson is insisting they need evidence. Harman's opening statement suggests it is enough to show he knew the rules and attended events which broke the rules. So again, it is about the strength of the test being applied.
"As soon as... the Sue Grey investigation and police investigation had concluded I came to the Commons and I corrected the record as I promised I would. I clearly could not have anticipated the outcome by coming earlier because I could not have known what the outcome would be."
This is why the distinction between guidance and rules is so crucial. Johnson is saying that the only pertinent element here is the legal matter of the rules, not the non-legal matter of the guidance. And that;s because if it's about guidance his defence falls apart.
On guidance, which was clearly breached, he could have said at any point 'yep that happened, I'm sorry'. There'd have been no reason to wait for the police inquiry.
This will be one of his core arguments. He will claim that by looking at guidance, the committee is expanding is remit illegitimately. He'll make this case by looking at the resolution establishing the committee inquiry, which is here. publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmse…
And indeed it says it'll look at his comments concerning the "legality of activities in 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office under Covid regulations". Both legality and regulations are in the rules, not guidance section.
But unfortunately for him, he repeatedly included the word "guidance" in his Commons statements, and they are explicitly referred to in the resolution. SO while this is a quite clever little gambit - almost certainly Pannick's - it is unlikely to work.
Johnson makes his argument that no one said these events broke the rules so how could he have known. Only Dominic Cummings testimony says contrary, and "he has every reason to lie". Hah. There's a moral lesson in here somewhere about a bus, let's see if we can find it.
Johnson argument is essentially that he is an idiot and not a liar.
And now the attack on the committee. "As investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury, it has elected only to publish the evidence that it finds incriminating."
"The committee is trying to mount an argument that I must have known that the guidance was not being followed... You have suggested it must have been obvious to me because you have the photographs."
Johnson now saying that the photo of him at a party does not show him at a party.
Right the bell goes for the vote on the Windsor deal - they'll now all go off and come back in 15 minutes.
I think we're quite familiar with these arguments by now.
Johnson is basically saying that these events were fine because there were no fines (that key guidance/rule distinction again), that the fact no-one complained showed everyone else thought it was fine, that the use of a photographr demonstrated they thought it was all OK.
The only possible word for this is gaslit. 'Oh you saw a photo of me with another woman, you're hysterical and must be imagining things.' We were all around at the time. We all knew what we could and could not do. We knew, because he kept telling us.
There is something almost impressive about watching someone desperately trying to get out from under such comprehensive evidence of their blatent lies.
Johnson says that if the committee thinks he lied, then it is saying all the other civil servants and MPs and advisers were lying.
But in fact, there is quite a lot of evidence of worries about the parties. And this of course ignores the fact that several said they were guided by leadership acting like it was all ok.
In fact, it is to ignore the entire concept of leadership and organisational culture coming from the top.
Johnson now going for Harman, saying her existing reports were prejudicial. Now he goes for the guidanelementce . "The committee is supposed to be inquiring strictly into what I said about rule breaking rather than non-statutory guidance so much of this is irrelevant."
When he said on Dec 1st and 8th that rules and guidance were followed, "that belief, what was in my head, was based on my understanding of the rules and the guidance. That did not mean that I believed social distancing was complied with perfectly."
This, he says, is because they did not believe that was possible in the building. The guidance said social distancing was to be complied with "where possible" given the working environment. He says its a "cramped narrow 18th Century townhouse" (it is).
Sunak's Windsor deal has passed with just 29 MPs voting against it.
Will get a breakdown of which Tory Mps voted against in a bit. One of them will be Boris Johnson himself. He;s currently banging on about all the hand washes they had in No.10.
"I know that people around the country will look at those events and think they look like the kinds of events that I was forbidding to everyone else, but I'll believe to the day I die that it was part of my job to thank people for the work they had done".
He had to keep up morale, you see. Elsewhere in the country morale was absolutely fantastic in winter under lockdown. Everyone was having a whale of a time.
There's something quite pitiful about all this. He's so used to getting his way. He still seems almost shocked that the country swung against him over this.
"The committee seems at times to be saying that I should not be relying on the advice of political advisers or even officials. This is ridiculous."
Of course, this is not what they are saying. They're saying that you don't need advice on the things you said being against the rules being against the rules when they are happening in front of your face.
He looks like a little boy. He's been lying all his life, and throughout his career. And now that he's caught, and it's all slipping away from him, you can see in his eyes the confusion and desperation.
Well thank Christ that's over. Questions now.
The questioning is going to concern six gatherings. They start with the two leaving dos on Nov 13 and 27 2020. Workplace guidance insisted on social distancing of 2m wherever possible and that "only absolutely necessary participants" should physically attend meetings.
That's gonna be a tough one to square mate.
COnservative Bernard Jenkins starts. He quotes Johnson telling the Commons beforehand about the need to have people in the workplace in a "covid secure way" or at press conferences saying "hands, face, space".
"There can be n doubt you understood what the guidance and rules meant and were intended to achieve." Johnson agrees.
On Nov 13th, there was a leaving do for the director of communications, Lee Cain, in the press office. 15-20 people there, Johnson gave a speech. Johnson accepts this is all true.
This is all so preposterous. A child would know for certain that he was lying But adults require committee investigations.
Johnson: At all stages the guidance was intended to be implemented "where possible". Incredible. This is a leaving do of the type which no-one else was able to attend.
Johnson says the party "had to happen" because "two senior members of staff were about to leave the building in acrimonious circumstances, it was important for me to be there and give reassurance". He believed "it was absolutely essential for work purposes." Genuinely very funny.
So Johnson said the guidance is being complied with in that photo. We're through the looking glass already. Where the fuck will we be in a few hours? Saying sausages are made of rainbows? What do words even mean.
"Why I believed, when I stop up on Dec 1, what picture I had in my head and why that doesn't conflict with that picture, I knew from my direct and personal experience that we were doing a huge amount to stop the spread of covid in the building." What.
Jenkins, good quality: "If you'd said all that at the time to the House of Commons we probably wouldn't be sitting here. But you didn't."
Striking to see the exchange between Jenkins and Johnson. Jenkins very polite, praising him for his public service during the pandemic. Johnson, angrily: "I'm trying to explain to you why I said the guidance was followed."
There is in general a strong undercurrent of entitled rage in Johnson. There always has been ie under hostile press questioning. It's on display here and after a few hours of this it might get quite high volume.
Pannick is smiling away throughout, as if he's just discovered a delightful new jazz band.
Jenkins says the gathering attracted fixed penalty notices (FPN), so why did he think it was within the rules? Johnson says it was reasonably necessary for work purposes. Then does his whole nonsense about it being necessary to "steady the ship".
Jenkins: the photographs do not show any work being done. Why did it not occur to you that it might not be necessary for work purposes. Johnson, livid, insisting it didn't occur to him at all.
He then desperately tries to worm his way out. "at least as far as my participation was concerned [the events] did not fall foul of the rules, I was there for a maximum of 25 minutes..." Harman: "How long you were at the gathering is not the question Sir Bernard is asking you.
Incredible to watch him provide the leadership example that saw the rules constantly broken and then just dump the poor fuckers who followed that leadership example.
Jenkins: lots of people led important organisations around the country Leaving dos were not possible for them. Why was it for you? Johnson says the photo is not a social event. It's like trying to wrestle with a trifle.
Nov 27th party now. Another leaving do. Again, outside the press office in No.10.
This was the event where there was no social distancing, people were 4-5 deep, against regulations and against guidance. It was when Johnson reportedly said it was "probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK right now".
Johnson says, correctly, that Gray and the Met said there was no rule breaking.
I should point out here that I have always found what Gray and the police considered rule breaking, or worthy of investigation, utterly mysterious and bizarre. And it that become quite irritating given that they;re both now treated as Old Testament gospel.
Johnson also got the name mixed up and then mentioned in public one of the names which are supposed to be kept anonymous. Anyway, they've broken for another 15 mins to vote.
It's funny, you know. Seeing the politician famed for his charisma and easy use of language reduced to desperately making technical linguistic legal points to save himself.
We're back. Amazing moment. After weeks of saying this is all a Labour plot because of Sue Gray's involvement, Johnson absolutely fucks himself.
He starts by challenging how many people were at the party. "There's conflicting evidence on that. If you look at what Sue Gray has to say about it she says 15-20."
Jenkins replies: "But we're not relying on Sue Gray's evidence isn't that ironic." Laughter in the room.
Jenkins mentions one witness says they couldn't get out the room because there were so many people there. Any reason not to believe it? Johnson now desperately clinging to Gray report saying there were fewer people there.
He's asked about the "unsocially distanced gathering" quote. He now says he doesn't remember saying it. Is he denying it? "I don't remember saying those words and I think it unlikely I would have said those words". Hilariously cautious comment that one. So not quite denying it.
Jenkins dealing with him very well. "You're giving very long answers and you're repeating yourself quite a lot, can we just get on with the questions?"
If you've children you must make sure they do not watch this. They'll think they can get away with any old shit. Or worse, they'll turn into lawyers.
Jenkins reads him his own words from May 25th 2022. "It was certainly the case that social distancing guidance was being respected at all times."
Johnson desperately thrusting away from the implication.
"There's a confusion between social distancing and the guidance. The guidance comprises social distancing amongst other things. What we were trying to do was follow the guidance to the best of our ability. That meant sometimes social distancing could not be observed."
We're now onto two different gatherings. June 19th 2020. That's the Cabinet Room birthday party, where the FPN was issued to Johnson. The other is May 20th 2020. The No10 Garden party, where FPNs were also issued.
Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue takes over the questioning.
She quotes his comments to the Commons.
On May 11th, he said: "If you must go to work…you should do so, provided… that you observe the rules on social distancing". On June 10: "So please, to repeat what you've heard so many times before, stay alert, maintain social distancing and keep washing your hands."
Amazing. On the birthday party, she asks: "The attendees included your wife and your interior designer didn't they?" Johnson says yes, the "contractor... popped her head around the corner".
So it was not necessary for work purposes and had people who he did not work with there. Johnson: "I thought it reasonably necessary for work purposes because I was standing at my desk surrounded by officials who'd been asked to come wish me a happy birthday."
That answer should go down in the annals of infamous political bullshit.
For others, there are rules. But for people of Johnson's standing, there is the autonomy of interpretation.
His chief defence is that this appeared in the Times. But that is merely further evidence of his teams entitlement and incompetence.
'I can't have broken the rules because it was my birthday.'
Now on the garden party. This had to be essential for work purposes. The email invitation was sent to 200 people and encouraged staff to bring their own booze. This shit is worthy of The Day Today.
Johnson says he never saw that email. Insists he was only told about it just before it happened. This is against the testimony of Cummings, who says he argued against it, and Lee Cain, director of comms.
She reads out the Cain comments saying he raised concerns with Martin Reynolds, Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister. She asks if anyone raised the issues with him directly. Johnson says no. He says concerns were about "optics not the rules".
Fovargue: If it was within the rules, why was he concerned about the optics. Johnson waffles and prevaricates. Cain says it would have been "highly unusual" for him not to have raised it with Johnson. Johnson says if they had told Reynolds it wouldn't have gone ahead.
Reynolds says he probably raised it with PM. Johnson denies anyone did. What you have here is a circular firing squad of people who really are completely untrustworthy all blaming someone else. Pretty classic Johnson administration.
Did he see the tables with alcohol? Johnson pretends he was asked if he organised the tables. He is asked again. He says he saw the tables but can't remember what was on them. This is so embarrassing.
Cain says he saw the party and concluded it was a purely social gathering. The police issued fines, so it did breach the regulations. We know Johnson knew the regulations. So.....
Johnson responds by disputing that it wasn't an essential gathering. "I don't know why the FPNs were issued, but it may be they were issued to people who did not have a good reason to come in from home for that gathering." Throwing more of his underlings under the bus.
Two more events.
January 14th. Another leaving do. FPNs were issued. Johnson gave a speech.

December 18th. So called 'Cheese and Wine Friday', where there were awards, and the partying we now know went on until 2am.
SNP MP Allan Dorans is doing the questioning.
Jan 14th 2021 event comes first. About 15 people attended. He shows the photo. How did he not know there was a breach?
Johnson says, yes, there are some bottles on the table. "That;s screenshot from Zoom, because large numbers of people were on zoom... people were meeting briefly to say thank you and farewell to two officials."
He says the names. Then apologises for doing so. He knew exactly what he was doing.
He promised to protect the names of the officials he was discussing today. He clearly and very consciously used their names. There's no error there at all.
We're now on the cheese and wine night. Between 25-40 people attended He was in No.10. Did he join? He says no. He says he was discussing no-deal Brexit. Says he had no knowledge of the event.
Dorans says they did a trip to No.10. There is clear line of sight from his flat to where the party took place. It's a few metres away. "You had clear direct line of sight. Are you telling me you weren't aware of the noise of the event taking place." Johnson: "Absolutely."
Johnson: "Nobody raised any anxieties about that event with me before I stood up in the House of Commons.... The thing was a complete blank to me."
Ok they;re done talking about the gatherings and will now ask about his comments to the Commons on December 1st and 8th. Andy Carter, Conservative, kicks off.
We're going to be here until the end of time. How do I still have a headache from the hangover. How.
Johnson was asked on Dec 1st whether a Xmas party was held on Dec 18th. He said "all guidance was followed completely in No.10". Carter says he knew the guidance, he knew social distancing wasn't happening etc. So why did he say that?
Johnson: "Between the event and when I stood up to speak in all the cases that you mentioned nobody came to me and said we've got a problem with this one and you've got to worry about this. There's no trace of that in the electronic record."
He says talked to Jack Doyle, dir of comms after Slack, about that event. "I asked him about this Dec 18th event. I asked him to describe it. He told me that it was within the rules. I concluded that it sounded to me that event was within both the rules and the guidance."
When he included the word 'guidance' he was misremembering the lines-to-take, which actually just had rules.
That's dangerous for him. Carter asks why he didn't correct the record about the rules and the guidance. "You could have corrected the record at that point."
Johnson: "I didn't think there was any appreciable difference because it was our job to follow the guidance as much as the rules."
Carter: Why didn't you tell the House about the other gatherings at that point? Johnson: "I didn't think those events were an issue. No-one had previously raised them with me as things I ought to be concerned about"
This rather raises the question of why he then said he was filled with such rage about videos showing people in No.10 laughing about parties.
On December 8th he said all rules and guidance followed. It had been a week since his previous response. What did he do in that week?
Johnson: "I did the most obvious thing." He decided he got conflicting information when he saw the Allegra Stratton video. He commissioned the inquiry. Carter: At no point did you tell the House about these other five gatherings. Why? This is hotting up now.
Johnson quite desperate. "You've got to understand, in my mind at the time these did not seem to me to be improper or offensive events. They weren't in my consciousness because I thought they were work events."
Johnson claims he believes that all other events he attended must have been within the rules while he was there, and only became against the rules after he left. And that is why he never told the Commons they took place.
Carter: Reynolds says he questioned Johnson on whether it was realistic to say guidance was followed in No.10 at all times. So were you advised not to say guidance was followed at all times?
Johnson says Reynolds was cautious about what he should say. Johnson has received assurances about rules, but not guidance. "He;s talking about social distancing and whether we had maintained... perfect social distancing in No.10."
Johnson is relying a lot on this distinction between following the guidance & whether they maintained perfect social distancing. I think what he means by that - could be wrong, it's all fucking baffling - is that Reynolds was worried that they'd used the exceptions on distancing.
Dropping it to one metre etc in certain cases because of the layout of the building. This all feels very desperate, but clearly he feels it provides some space to build a defence.
Then he talks about his response to Catherine West where he said there had been no party but if so all rules and guidance was observed. He says he was confident because he knew what the event was and "my own personal reasons to believe that was true".
Carter: Your written statement says you don;t believe perfect compliance with social distancing was required by the guidance. If you believe this, why did you not make it clear when you told the House that the guidance was followed at all times?"
Johnson: "That's a very good question Mr Carter."
Carter devastating. Johnson's submission quoted from workplace guidance, saying that where guidelines could not be followed in full, businesses should consider whether that activity needed to continue "for the business to operate".
"Are you saying you thought these gatherings were so critical to the functioning of government that it was permissible to hold them even if they couldn't be socially distanced?" Johnson: "The short answer is yes."
That really must be considered utterly preposterous. I mean, one of them is his birthday.
Carter asks what mitigations were put in place as required by the guidance. Johnson says they didn't touch each other's pens.
This is a thing that is really happening. He really said that.
Harman says presumably they were passing drinks to each other. Johnson: "Of course. This is guidance. This is guidance. I'm not going to pretend it was enforced rigidly, but that's what the guidance provides for."
Alberto Costa, Tory, now asking the questions. He's focusing on the assurances Johnson says he received that no rules were broken.
"Mr Johnson, did any government law officer or any meber of the govt legal dept, such as the attorney general, or any one of the hundreds of solicitors or barristers who work for the govt, did any one of those give you assurance?"
Johnson: "The short answer is no they didn't. but neither did I seek assurances from them."
That;s interesting, given Sarah Dines MP said Johnson sat around a table with his team and said: :"We did follow the rules at all times didn't we?" So basically that is what he means by 'assurances'. He didn't even check with a lawyer.
But you know when he did check with a lawyer? When his arse was on the line because of this committee inquiry. Look at that top grade, very expensive, paid for by the taxpayer, top grade fucking silk sitting behind him.
That's the kind of silk whose feet don't touch the ground, they simply float above it.
Costa: "Did the head of the civil service, or a senior permanent civil servant give you these assurances?" Johnson says Reynolds, his Principal Private Secretary, thought it was OK.
Costa again. This is all dangerous for Johnson. He says Johnson says he got assurances from Jack Doyle and James Slack. Both directors of comms.
"They're both individuals you had personally appointed... they were political advisers who dealt with the media. Why did you rely on an assurance from political advisers rather than a senior civil servant or a govt lawyer."
Johnson says it was because he wanted to talk to the senior adviser who was there. That was Doyle. Little bit more throwing under the bus here. He then quotes Doyle's WhatsApps to him.
These are all lines-to-take by the way. It;s unutterably absurd. They're not independent advise, they're advice on how to handle the media.
Costa extremely dangerous to Johnson. "When you decided to rely on the assurances you referred to in the House, why did you not then discuss it with" the Cabinet secretary or his principal private secretary, or a govt lawyer. "Why didn't you double check it with a govt lawyer?"
Johnson a bit all over the place. He refers to MPs like Sarah Dines and Andrew Griffith saying that he asked generally to his team 'did we follow the rules'. In other words he has no way to answer Costa's questions.
Both those MP statements are about Johnson sitting back and asking officials about it. Costa picks up on that. Who were those officials? Johnson says he can't name them. Harman: Because you can;t remember their names or because you want to protect their anonymity?
Johnson: There's at least one who asked not be named. Costa wants him to write to them saying which official gave him the assurance. Johnson says sure, but this is all irrelevant because he was assured on various occasions the rules were followed.
Costa's point, of course, is that he did not take reasonable measures to ensure that these 'assurances' had any substance to them. He basically just asked around the office what people thought.
Costa now looking at comments from Doyle. He said he did not advise the prime minister to say guidance had been followed. "Is it correct you received no assurances that [this gathering or any other] were compliant with covid guidance?"
Johnson: "It is correct to say that did not... receive direct assurances about the Dec 18th event. But until Martin Reynolds made his point to me on the mornign of the 8th nobody had said to me anything adverse about our following of the guidance".
Johnson coming rather unstuck here. And you can form a clear line of argument from this to the charge that he was reckless in misleading the House, even if he didn't wittingly mislead.
Costa highlighting how Johnson's assurances are the product of WhatsApp chats saying 'what is our line' on the parties.
Costa: "So that line, Mr Johnson, the assurance you relied on in the Commons on December 8th, was initially developed as no more than a media line to hold off press enquiries wasn't it?" Oh shit.
Johnson: "Yes, but I don't see any great vice in that. I think we have to be absolutely realistic about how govt is carried on."
Johnson then desperately tries to act like the questioning is about how govt functions and modrn press operations. Of course, it is not. It is that when he spoke of assurances he did not do the basic minimum of actually seeking meaningful assurances, he asked his head of comms.
And his great explosive evidence, pumped out and boosted all week by his friends in the press, amounts to a WhatsApp chat with his press guy. That is some proper stone cold emperor has no clothes shit right there.
Costa is hilarious by the way. Very much more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone. But he is doing serious damage.
He's now highlighting Doyle's own views on the parties. WhatsApp messages from him about the June 19th birthday party. He says he was "struggling to come up with a way" that the gathering was within the rules and "not sure it would work" that it was necessary for work.
Oh dear.
"Were you aware that your trusted senior adviser as you've put it doubted that this gathering was within the rules?" Johnson: "No is the answer to that." Blathers away. "Jack was not at that event, he knew nothing about what had taken place."
Pannick isn't smiling anymore.
Costa with the killshot: "How can it be that Mr Doyle, your trusted adviser, the person whose assurance you relied on in the House of Commons, was himself clearly doubtful about the compliance of this gathering with the rules but you continued to say you were not."
Johnson relies on his previous argument that he hadn't been at the party and didn't raise concerns with Johnson.
Costa: "Some might see your reliance on the repeated assurances you recieved as a deflection mechanism to prevent having to answer questions about your knowledge of these gatherings. Would that not be a fair assessment?"
Call the police, there's been a murder, as I believe the kids say.
Costa: "Thank you very much for answering my questions." Absolute stone cold shit.
Harman borrows Costa's gun. "I was in the House when these assurances were given. We took them to be serious assurances....
Johnson tries to interrupt, she keeps going. Pannick looking increasingly concerned.
Would you not expect us to be a bit dismayed to hear it was not from senior civil servants, it was from political appointees, that they themselves had doubts about it, that it only covered one gathering and it didn't cover the other three, it only covered the rules...
and also you were there at the time, so its a bit hard to understand what the nature of an assurance is when you were there and saw it with your own eyes? Do you think we'd be entitled to be a bit dismayed?" Johnson desperately trying to interrupt, failing.
"It looks from what you've told us in answer to Mr Costa's questions that they did not amount to much at all."
You could make a DVD boxset from Pannick's expressions through this thing. Honestly, they're magnificent. I never knew someone could look bemused and outraged at the same time.
Johns kind of all over the place at this stage. "I had received as I said repeated assurances from different people on more than one occasion and more than one person that the event was in accordance with the rules." These are all directors of communications by the way.
Johnson: "Is it good enough to rely on the director of communications no matter how eminent they may be? And I think the answer is yes." Incredible.
The lawyers are all sitting right at the front edges of their seats now.
Ok sorry but these updates will now slow down - I have to file a column on this by 6:30. But will pop in if it gets all sexy again.
Oh no it's getting sexy again.
Johnson absolutely livid with Jenkins. "This is complete nonsense... compete nonsense... You're wrong."
This has all been tremendous fun. Complete collapse in even basic political standards, of course, but fun.
Harman: "Do you still want to assert that it was certainly the case when you were present at gatherings to wish staff farewell that the guidance had been followed at all times. Do you want to assert it to the committee and thereby assert it to the House?"
That last line is interesting. Is the insinuation that he is even now misleading the House? Like, as a meta act of committing the behaviour he is being investigated for while the investigation is happening.
Johnson says he does still assert it.
And that's it. The hearing comes to a close. Thank Christ for that. I feel like a built a hangover torture therapy for myself.
Right, better write this column. Oh and pre-order my book you cunts. Those Alka Seltzer won't buy themselves. waterstones.com/book/how-westm…
Column on today's batshittery: Never has an emperor worn fewer clothes inews.co.uk/opinion/boris-…

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More from @IanDunt

Nov 15
He's just the most dreadful cloying insincere reactionary little dimwit.
It was a British court that ruled it unlawful. A. British. Court. It doesn't become a foreign court by saying it repeatedly.
His desperation is visible for all to see. The court today showed non-refoulement is all over international and domestic law. So he'll introduce a new treaty and then what?
Read 7 tweets
Nov 15
Sunak on Rwanda: The court "confirmed the principle of removing asylum seekers to safe third country is lawful - there are further elements that they wanted additional certainty on." Hilarious.
Says he's working on a new treaty with Rwanda and is prepared to "revisit our domestic legal framework" if necessary.
That doesn't work. A new treaty won't change the reality of the Rwandan asylum system. Nor will legal changes make it legal, unless the UK will also leave the Refugee Convention, the UN Convention against Torture, the UN International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights & more.
Read 23 tweets
Nov 12
A staggering place to be. Left to the police to balance free speech & disorder, while PM & home sec engage in provocations. Then left to the police to face the violence triggered by the govt. And after all that, not a word of gratitude from No.10 or the Home Office.
You sometimes think you'll lose the ability to be shocked. But to see the police - the*police* - left to stand up for basic liberal democratic values while the govt spins off into far-right agitation is really a sight to behold.
One other thing, of less immediate importance but deeply depressing. I'm so tired of seeing a government, with access to the full power of the state, turn itself into a shouty sideline columnist agitator rather than, you know, actually fucking governing.
Read 5 tweets
Oct 24
Sunak is cowardly enough to hold an election in the winter of 24/25, but I'm not convinced he's quite stupid enough. If you've lost the air war, you really need a strong ground war. Asking lots of mostly older volunteers to go out in the cold wet darkness seems... suboptimal.
The most likely point of the next election is autumn.
There's a lot of chat that extending the time gives him the chance of events shaking things up. Perfectly true. But there is an associated danger, which is that people start to get really very pissed off that he refuses to hold an election.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 20
BY-ELECTION ANALYSIS: There's really only one pertinent fact to take from all this, and it's that the Tories are finished

There's a delicious sense of justice here. The Uxbridge win led Sunak to adopt a posture of increasingly aggressive climate sabotage - cancelling HS2, weakening carbon commitments, inventing imaginary wars on motorists and meat-eaters.
There was zero electoral basis for it - Ulez was clearly a local issue grounded in that particular moment in time. But he is not the technocrat details man he is made out to be. He's a desperate ignorant dimwit.
Read 5 tweets
Oct 4
God help me, I'm not sure I can survive an hour of Sunak's hypocrisy.
While we're waiting, here's a Thought for the Day from John Maynard Keynes:

"We do nothing because we have not the money. But it is precisely because we do not do anything that we have not the money."
And also while we're waiting, here's a preview of some of the bullshit he's about to say and why it is bullshit iandunt.substack.com/p/hs2-the-day-…
Read 63 tweets

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