London, Thanasis Gavos,

In the sincerity of the assurances he had given to the House of Commons that under no circumstances had the lockdown rules been breached in Downing Street, the former prime minister insisted Boris Johnson appearing before the parliamentary Immunity Committee.

Mr Johnson’s much-anticipated testimony to the seven-member panel comes as part of an inquiry into whether he knowingly and recklessly misled the body, as the Metropolitan Police later ruled that several gatherings broke the rules. Mr Johnson had attended some of these reprehensible gatherings and was fined for gathering on June 19, 2020, his birthday.

“I am here to say with my hand on my heart that I did not lie to Parliament. When these statements were made, they were made in good faith and based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time,” the former prime minister said in his opening remarks.

As an argument for his honesty he said that if he had known the meetings were illegal he would not have let the official Downing Street photographer take pictures.

He also said that if, as the Immunity Committee has claimed in its interim report, it should have been “obvious” to him that the gatherings were in breach of lockdown rules, then it should have been obvious to all the other officials present. In such a case, Mr. Johnson commented, it is as if the commission is accusing these officials, including the current prime minister, of being liars.

He also referred to the messages he had exchanged with associates and advisers more than once, assuring him that there was no violation of rules. Mr Johnson noted that it was “ridiculous” for the committee to suggest that a prime minister facing an emergency such as the pandemic could not rely on trusted advisers.

Regarding the presence of many people in an enclosed space, he said everyone was trying to keep their distance, but that was not always possible in a confined working environment like Downing Street.

He expressed shock that the police eventually fined him for the gathering which has been described as his birthday party, insisting it was in no way such, but simply associates entering the cabinet office where he was working that day to be wished, no songs and no cake.

However, he apologized because he unintentionally misled the Parliament. “Whatever we did wrong, I think all officials in government posts should be proud of the efforts they made during the pandemic,” he added.

He left clear tips about biased members of the Immunity Committee.

Committee chair Labor MP Harriet Harman said misleading parliament was a matter of great importance because democracy and its processes depend on trusting the honesty of government members in Parliament. “Without that trust, our entire parliamentary democracy is undermined,” he said.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin in his questions commented, among other things, that photographs taken at gatherings showed the presence of alcoholics, which was prohibited for the rest of the country.

He also commented that the photos did not appear to show people working but more of a social gathering, which was also prohibited.

Mr Johnson insisted that strict safeguards were in place in the Downing Street working environment and that some breaches of social distancing rules were “inevitable”, as in the rest of the country. But he emphasized that in any case his presence in places with many people was done under the sincere belief that it did not constitute a violation of the rules.

“Those who say we had a party during the lockdown don’t know what they’re talking about,” the former prime minister said several times in his testimony. He said he attended meetings that have been criticized as “social” rather than work meetings to cheer up Downing Street staff.

As political commentators have pointed out, the rules banning the gatherings did not contain an exemption for cheering workers.

Mr Johnson’s testimony began shortly after 2pm local time and with some for votes in the House will continue until at least 6pm.