UK lawmakers questioned Boris Johnson for more than three tense hours on Wednesday, pressing him about whether events he hosted while prime minister broke COVID lockdown rules and drawing defiant denials that he misled them. A House of Commons committee is investigating assurances Johnson made to Parliament after parties at the prime minister's residence came to light, the BBC reports. If he's found to have misled lawmakers, intentionally or not, he could be sanctioned or suspended as a member, which could lead to a recall election. He also could face perjury charges. Johnson conceded a lack of social distancing at the gatherings after beginning his appearance by declaring, while holding a Bible, "Hand on heart, I did not lie to the House."
Johnson said he understood the gatherings to be exempt from social distancing regulations because they were "essential for work purposes," per the Washington Post. When shown a photo of himself at a going-away party for his communications director, with people and drinks all around, Johnson said the residence's staff cannot have an "invisible electrified fence around them." He said he didn't see how he could thank employees without a farewell event. A member of his Conservative Party answered, "The guidance does not say you can have a thank-you party, and with as many people in the room as you like, because you think it's very important to thank people, the guidance doesn't say that."
Much of the anger toward Johnson on the matter is because the public had to follow the rules, which even applied to funerals and hospital visits. One tweet Wednesday said: "Ah yes, November 2020, when I wasn't allowed to accompany my pregnant wife to any prenatal scans/appointments, and when my daughter was born I was ushered out of the hospital after an hour because I wasn't allowed onto the ward. But Boris says a leaving do was essential. Got it." (Read more Boris Johnson stories.)