Wednesday briefing: What to expect from Boris Johnson’s Partygate grilling in parliament today

In today’s newsletter: The former prime minister faces the Commons privileges committee over allegations he intentionally misled Parliament – this is what’s at stake

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Good morning. If, at 2pm today, you find that the high-octane antiquing of ITV1’s Dickinson’s Real Deal isn’t quite hitting the spot, you will find the rolling news channels offering a rare bit of competitive counter-programming with a preposterous old smoothie of their own. At around that time, the House of Commons’ privileges committee will begin one of its most significant hearings in recent memory. The witness, who will face questions for up to four hours, is Boris Johnson, and what his fellow MPs make of his evidence could decide his parliamentary future.

What parliamentary future, you may ask? After all, Johnson has already earned nearly £5m in speaking fees and book advances since resigning as prime minister; his side hustle as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip hardly seems worth the bother. But Johnson has shown no sign of being philosophical about the reputational harm of allegations that he knowingly misled the Commons over Partygate. And rumours of his interest in usurping Rishi Sunak to become Conservative leader have proven far more persistent than anyone would have expected when he stood down in something he denied was disgrace last summer.

Brexit | Rishi Sunak is set to push his revamped Northern Ireland protocol through the Commons despite hardline Conservative Brexiters rejecting the plan. The verdict of the European Research Group – which follows a similar decision by the Democratic Unionist party – is likely to mean a rebellion over the plan in a vote on Wednesday, although it appears unlikely to be significant.

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Policing | Sadiq Khan has clashed with the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, saying he disagrees with Sir Mark Rowley’s refusal to describe his force as institutionally misogynistic, racist and homophobic. Khan told the VFAB that despite the disagreement, he backed Rowley to enact the reforms recommended by Louise Casey’s bombshell report.

Pensions | Ministers have reportedly delayed plans to bring forward a rise in the state pension age, amid falling life expectancy in the UK. The Financial Times has reported ministers have decided to delay making a decision until after the next general election because of fears about a revolt by middle-aged voters.

LGBTQ+ rights | MPs in Uganda have passed a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill, which would make homosexual acts punishable by death. All but two of the 389 legislators voted for the bill which introduces capital and life imprisonment sentences for gay sex and “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”.

Technology | Google has launched its own chatbot, Bard, that it hopes will compete with ChatGPT. Users can now sign up for access via a waiting list, in a pivotal moment for the tech giant as its web search service risks being outcompeted by AI chatbots.

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