Johnson may face contempt probe over COVID-19 lockdown parties

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LONDON/AHMEDABAD, India
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is likely to face an investigation into whether he misled lawmakers over COVID-19 lockdown breaches after his government unexpectedly dropped an attempt to delay the showdown in parliament.
Opposition parties secured the right to hold a vote on whether Johnson should be investigated for contempt of parliament by its Committee of Privileges.
The opposition parties accuse Johnson of lying to the House of Commons over lockdown parties in Downing Street when he told the lower house of parliament in December that “all guidance was followed completely.”
Johnson is away on an official trip to India and his government had sought to delay a decision on any investigation until after police complete their probe into the alleged lockdown breaches.
But ministers pulled an amendment just before a debate started in the House of Commons.
Johnson’s spokesman said Conservative Party lawmakers had been told they could vote however they like or not attend the vote at all. That means the parliamentary investigation could be approved later on Thursday.
If approved, Johnson might face the release of further evidence of alcohol-fueled parties at the heart of government during the stringent national lockdowns that he had ordered the country to observe.
Some Conservatives had been uneasy at the prospect of being ordered to oppose greater scrutiny into an issue that has damaged voters’ trust in the government.
Johnson apologized to the House of Commons on Tuesday after he was fined by police for breaking lockdown orders. He said he did not know at the time that a birthday gathering at the height of the pandemic was a breach of the restrictions that he set.
Police are still investigating the events and Johnson may receive further fines.
Deliberately misleading parliament represents a breach of the ministerial code, and by convention ministers who do so are expected to resign. Johnson has admitted making a mistake but said he had not deliberately misled parliament.