Friends of Boris Johnson have accused enemies of the former prime minister of waging a briefing campaign against him over partygate in a bid to discredit him.
In the wake of fresh allegations being handed to police and the Commons inquiry into whether he misled parliament, allies have claimed Mr Johnson is the subject of hostile briefings about meetings at Chequers and Downing Street when covid restrictions were in place.
Evidence of the meetings did not emerge during the Sue Gray inquiry or in the investigation by the Privileges Committee, which is currently deliberating whether Mr Johnson misled the Commons over whether Covid rules were broken.
But on Tuesday it emerged Mr Johnson had been referred to police after Cabinet Office lawyers discovered evidence of the new meetings, said to include former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, the TV presenter Kate Garraway and his family and friends. Mr Johnson’s allies have insisted the meetings were lawful.
Details of those meetings, including what allegedly happened at Chequers, have been briefed to the media. A friend of Mr Johnson said enemies of the ex-PM were behind this briefing campaign, which the friend said was the “same old crap”.
Allies of the former prime minister said the mood in his camp is “punchy” and in “full fightback mode” after the latest developments this week.
Mr Johnson has sacked the Cabinet Office legal team assigned to represent him at the official Covid Inquiry, and has appointed new lawyers.
They have now presented his legal defence to both the police and the Privileges Committee, i understands.
The committee is understood to have received details of the No10 and Chequers meetings last week, and has written to Mr Johnson asking for a response. They may also recall him for oral evidence.
In a letter to the Covid Inquiry on Wednesday, Mr Johnson revealed he had disposed of his former legal team, and allies said he had last confidence in them after details of the meetings were handed over to police.
The new allegations means the Privileges Committee probe, which was due to report as soon as this month, may not publish its findings for several more weeks.
The committee, which is chaired by the Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a majority of Conservative MPs, will ask Mr Johnson if he wants to give a final written submission once all the evidence taking is complete.
The MPs will then prepare a draft of its report and if it contains criticism of the former prime minister, he will be handed the relevant sections in confidence. Mr Johnson will have a further two weeks to submit a written response to that criticism.
At this point, the committee will consider the response and may still amend its draft report before publishing its final conclusions.
The MPs are weighing up whether he inadvertently misled the Commons in December 2021, when he said no rule-breaking had taken place, whether these statements were reckless, or whether he wilfully misled.
The last of these conclusions would carry the stiffest penalty, including sanction by the House, and could potentially trigger a by-election for Mr Johnson.2023-05-25T18:28:38Z dg43tfdfdgfd