Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured the House of Commons committee on the “Partygate” affair that he had not lied to MPs in the case. “Hand on heart, I have not lied to Parliament,” Johnson began testifying at the televised hearing on Wednesday. Earlier, the conservative swore an oath on the Bible to tell the “whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Johnson said his statements to Parliament were “made in good faith and based on what I honestly believed at the time.”

The case went “to the heart of our democracy,” warned the chair of the committee, Harriet Harman of the Labor Party. The majority of the seven-member committee is made up of members of Johnson’s Conservative Party. Harman dismissed allegations by supporters of the former prime minister that the hearing was tantamount to a “mock court” and said MPs were acting “in the interest of the House” and not out of partisan motivation.

The committee is to clarify whether Johnson deliberately lied to MPs in his statements in Parliament in December 2021 about the “Partygate” affair. The then Conservative head of government had repeatedly assured in the House of Commons that the lockdown guidelines during the corona pandemic had been “fully” followed at the seat of government on Downing Street.

It later turned out that this was not the case. The British police imposed dozens of fines on Johnson’s employees after investigations into alcohol-fueled parties at government headquarters. Johnson himself was found guilty of misconduct in one case.

In a statement submitted on Tuesday, the ex-prime minister admitted that he had “misled” parliamentarians with his statements, but denied intentional wrongdoing. He made the statements “in good faith and based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”

Should the investigative committee come to the conclusion that Johnson knowingly lied to Parliament, it could recommend several sanctions for Parliament to vote on – including a suspension of Johnson as MP for at least 10 days. Such a move could result in a by-election in his west London constituency.

The responsible parliamentary committee had previously collected evidence in an investigation and published it in an interim report. The evidence “strongly” pointed to “violations” by Johnson of lockdown guidelines in force at the time – which Johnson should have been aware of, the document said. In addition, the findings of the inquiry would undermine Johnson’s previous pleas of innocence to the House of Commons, the committee said in early March.