Fury over ‘rigged’ Partygate probe: Allies of Boris Johnson are incandescent at the ‘vengeful’ parliamentary committee they claim is hellbent on kicking PM out of House of Commons
- The next PM will face intense pressure over the Partygate parliamentary probe
- Committee lead by Labour’s Harriet Harman could kick Boris out of parliament
- Johnson allies branded the probe a ‘witch hunt’ and ‘constitutional travesty’
The next Prime Minister will come under intense pressure over a ‘rigged’ investigation into Boris Johnson‘s actions over Partygate, that could potentially lead to him being stripped of his right to sit in the Commons.
Allies of Mr Johnson describe themselves as ‘incandescent’ about the Commons privileges committee probe into whether he misled Parliament over Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.
The Johnson allies dismiss the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and a ‘constitutional travesty’, pointing out the history of anti-Boris remarks by the seven members of the committee and arguing that it ‘moved the goalposts’ by changing the inquiry’s terms of reference to continue to pursue Mr Johnson even after he had been fined by police, apologised and toppled as Prime Minister.
Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman (pictured), tweeted in April that Mr Johnson and then Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘misled’ the Commons by accepting a fine for breaching Covid regulations
Allies of Boris Johnson (pictured) describe themselves as ‘incandescent’ about the Commons privileges committee probe into whether he misled Parliament over Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street
The next Prime Minister will come under intense pressure over a ‘rigged’ investigation into Boris Johnson’s actions over Partygate. The committee will start its work in September when MPs return from their summer recess – and as Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak enters No 10
The original investigation was supposed to establish whether Mr Johnson had ‘intentionally’ misled the House, but after he said he had inadvertently done so, it will now just seek to establish whether he misled the House – intentionally or otherwise.
The issue is likely to prove a headache for Ms Truss if the polls are correct and she becomes the next Prime Minister: despite being a Boris loyalist, she will be reluctant to stir up old divisions during her first days in power by being seen to attempt to intervene in the process.
Mr Johnson will be summoned by the panel to give evidence about his knowledge of staff gatherings that took place in Downing Street during lockdown and it will examine a number of events – some of which the Prime Minister did not even attend.
He initially told the Commons no rules had been broken, but corrected the record after the publication of the Sue Gray report detailing the No 10 breaches.
Despite Mr Johnson’s resignation as PM, the committee vowed to continue its work, saying: ‘The House charged the committee with this task and we are obliged to continue with it. Unlike other committees, we do not set our own agenda.’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is also facing criticism for giving the privileges committee the power to make it easier for Mr Johnson to face a by-election, as he stands accused of straying from scrupulous impartiality.
If the committee finds that Mr Johnson misled the House, it could force him out as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. If it administers a punishment of more than ten days’ suspension, Mr Johnson is open to recall, which could prompt a by-election in his west London constituency.
Earlier this year, Labour MP Chris Bryant, who was chairman of the committee, recused himself from the investigation after his ‘vocal criticism’ of the Prime Minister over lockdown breaches.
Tory MP Sir Bill Cash (pictured) has put forward a motion calling for the scrapping of the inquiry, on the grounds that it had been rendered ‘unnecessary’ by Mr Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister
However, other members of the panel have also made critical comments about the events that appear to pre-judge the conclusion of the report, including the new committee chairman, former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who tweeted in April that Mr Johnson and then Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘misled’ the Commons by accepting a fine for breaching Covid regulations.
Mr Johnson’s allies are particularly irate about the role of the four Conservative MPs on the committee, including Warrington South’s Andy Carter, who said Mr Johnson’s resignation was ‘in the nation’s best interests’ and was ‘the right thing to do’, and South Leicestershire’s Alberto Costa, who said there had been a ‘breakdown in good governance’ under Mr Johnson.
Newbury’s Laura Farris is a supporter of Mr Sunak who voted against Mr Johnson in the Commons confidence vote, after accusing the Prime Minister of presiding over a culture that facilitated ‘unethical and disastrous parties’.
The fourth Tory MP on the panel, Sir Bernard Jenkin, visited Mr Johnson in Downing Street before the Prime Minister’s resignation and told him: ‘It’s over.’ He urged him to ‘leave with dignity’ rather than being ‘forced out like Donald Trump clinging to power’.
Tory MP Sir Bill Cash has put forward a motion calling for the scrapping of the inquiry, on the grounds that it had been rendered ‘unnecessary’ by Mr Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister.
The motion, which is backed by MPs including former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, argues that the resolution to investigate the matter was ‘now unnecessary and should be rescinded’.
An ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘This is a rigged investigation by a vengeful committee, which is dressing up a witch hunt in the clothes of a reputable inquiry. Calling it a stitch-up underplays it.’
The ally added: ‘Boris has already been investigated by the police and Sue Gray and apologised for inadvertently misleading Parliament. It would have been nuts for him to have done so knowingly, and he has already apologised to the House.’
How can he get fair trial with these enemies on the jury?
The Committee chairwoman and ex-lawyer tweeted in April that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak ‘misled… the Commons’ by accepting a fine for breaching Covid regulations.
The Mother of the House – the longest-serving female MP – later shared a blog by ex-Labour press secretary Alastair Campbell that claimed the PM ‘broke [his] own emergency laws’, ‘lied repeatedly’ and ‘trashed the ministerial code’. She added: ‘Not just any old laws, but those… essential to protect even more people getting infected… laws to save lives!’
The Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham later tweeted: ‘What’s with those who say PM ‘knowingly lied’ but don’t think he should quit? Are our standards so low?’
She also lambasted the PM’s ‘complete disregard’ for the rules, labelling the breaches: ‘Unspeakable. Disgraceful.’
Last year, she retweeted Labour grandee Margaret Hodge’s post that claimed the Prime Minister had ‘repeatedly failed to be honest, open or transparent’ about donations and gifts he had received.
SIR BERNARD JENKIN
The Tory grandee said he went to see the PM to tell him ‘it’s over’ and warned him that he should leave with dignity rather than being ‘forced out like Donald Trump clinging to power’.
In January, the former Johnson ally said Tory backbenchers ‘need no reminders about how to dispose of a failing leader’.
Ahead of the PM’s appearance in front of the Commons Liaison Committee this year, Sir Bernard said Mr Johnson should not expect an ‘easy ride’ and said he wouldn’t be ‘pulling his punches’.
A shadow minister under Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Makerfield and ex-Citizens’ Advice Bureau chief shared a video claiming to set out ‘ten lies’ told by the Prime Minister, stating ‘Boris Johnson tells disgraceful lies’.
The video also accused the PM of ‘lying to the Queen’ and claimed that he had ‘already been sacked twice’ for ‘lying’.
The Remainer quit as a shadow education minister after voting against the Labour whip in a vote on a second Brexit referendum.
Rishi Sunak supporter Mrs Farris, a former journalist and barrister, voted against Mr Johnson in the confidence vote.
The Tory MP for Newbury said No10 parties had a ‘corrosive effect on public trust’, the PM’s leadership was ‘untenable’, and the report by civil servant Sue Gray into them was the ‘final straw’. She accused the PM of presiding over a culture that facilitated ‘unethical and disastrous parties’ and said he was brought down by his ‘personal failings’.
In July, the Penny Mordaunt supporter said there had been a ‘breakdown in good governance’ under Mr Johnson, adding that standards ‘must improve’.
The Tory MP for South Leicestershire – a solicitor – accused the Cabinet of failing to act as a ‘constitutional check’ on the PM because they were ‘tripping over themselves to pay homage’.
The Remainer was asked to quit as a parliamentary private secretary in 2019 after tabling an amendment to protect the rights of citizens of the EU.
The Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock SNP MP retweeted a statement from committee ex-chairman Chris Bryant saying Mr Johnson had been proven to have lied and should resign.
He also retweeted a statement from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accusing the PM of a ‘litany of lies’ and saying Tory MPs should ‘show this charlatan the door’.
Another retweet accused the PM of having an ‘appalling disregard for rules’.
Tory MP and magistrate Mr Carter said Mr Johnson’s resignation was ‘in the nation’s best interests’ and was ‘the right thing to do’.
The MP for Warrington South quit as a parliamentary private secretary to take part in the committee investigation.
According to Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority figures, he had the second highest expenses claim of all MPs in 2020, despite having only being elected in 2019.