£220,000 – the cost to the public of Boris Johnson´s Partygate defence

Boris Johnson image. Credit: Michael Tubi / Shutterstock.com

The National Audit Office (NAO) is considering a formal investigation into how £220,000 of public money was used to fund Boris Johnson´s legal Partygate defence.

According to the Guardian on Wednesday, February 1 no formal decision had been made on whether to investigate the issue although discussions are taking place between the NAO and the Cabinet Office.

The six-figure sum is, however, not the end of the story with more money potentially being set aside to cover ongoing investigations by the privileges committee.

Johnson continues to put the defence: “I thought what we were doing was within the rules.”

Labour´s leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the prime minister to cut the funding saying that he should tell Johnson “that as he made the mess, he can pick up the bill.”

It is understood that the initial contract issued to Peters & Peters to cover Johnson´s defence was for £129,000, but that the contract had been extended until this month given delays in obtaining information from the government. That extension provides for a budget of £220,000.

The NAO said that it had contacted the Cabinet Office to arrange a meeting after Tom Brake, the Director of Unlock Democracy and a former Liberal Democrat MP, wrote to them to investigate whether the spending had been a “sensible and legitimate use of public money.”

Brake said there was “strong evidence” Johnson had misled parliament over Partygate and that he was hopeful that the meeting due to take place this week will yield results.

He continued “In these circumstances, and with public finances under huge pressure, the taxpayer shouldn’t underwrite his open-ended defence legal costs.

“Fortunately for Johnson, thanks to his recent extra-parliamentary activities, he can afford to pay for them himself.”

A spokesperson for the prime minister defended the expenditure saying: “There is established precedent where former ministers are supported in legal costs if it’s the case that action relates to their work as a minister.”

Johnson, who appeared on a talk show with Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, said: “Anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No 10, and then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds.

“And if anybody thinks like that they’re out of their mind.”

He added: “What I would say is that we all thought what we were doing – or certainly, I thought what we were doing – was within the rules.

“And what we certainly thought was that we were working blindingly hard on some massive priorities for the country.”

Whilst there is legal precedent for funding of this nature, critics say that the circumstances are different and that the public funding for Johnson´s Partygate defence needs to be investigated.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.