Boris Johnson lied to MPs over Covid parties – Report
Boris Johnson deliberately lied to MPs about lockdown-breaking parties during the Covid pandemic that would have seen him face a 90-day suspension had he not quit as a lawmaker, a parliament committee ruled Thursday.
The Privileges Committee, which probes breaches of House of Commons rules, concluded that Johnson was guilty of “repeated contempts (of parliament) and… seeking to undermine the parliamentary process”.
“The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the prime minister, the most senior member of the government,” they stated in a damning 106-page report.
“There is no precedent for a prime minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House.
“He misled the House on an issue of the greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly.”
The seven-member committee, which has a majority of MPs from Johnson’s own Conservative party, has powers to recommend sanctions on rule-breakers that have to be voted on by MPs.
But Johnson, 58, avoided having to face his peers — and the humiliation of potentially having to run for re-election in his constituency — by resigning as an MP just days before the report was released.
– ‘Borisconi’ –
In his resignation statement last Friday, Johnson — who quit as prime minister last July due to “Partygate” and a string of other scandals — claimed he was the victim of a stitch-up by his political opponents in a “kangaroo court”.
He was unrepentant again on Thursday, calling the report “deranged” and the 14-month inquiry into his statements to parliament a “charade”.
He insisted his attendance at the Downing Street parties in question was “lawful, and required” by his job.
“This is a dreadful day for MPs and for democracy,” Johnson said in an angry 1,700-word statement.
“This decision means that no MP is free from vendetta, or expulsion on trumped-up charges by a tiny minority who want to see him or her gone from the Commons.
“I do not have the slightest contempt for Parliament, or for the important work that should be done by the Privileges Committee.
“But for the Privileges Committee to use its prerogatives in this anti-democratic way, to bring about what is intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination –- that is beneath contempt.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman refused to comment on Johnson’s attack, saying the committee was “properly constituted… carrying out work at the behest of parliament”.
The main opposition Labour party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, likened Johnson’s outburst to “a toddler that’s thrown his toys out of the pram because he’s been caught and he doesn’t like it”.
Johnson’s former editor at the Daily Telegraph Max Hastings said the committee had shown the ex-leader “for what he always was”, and called for a restoration of trust in politicians.
“We need to show that we reject the Trump school of life and Berlusconi school of life,” he told the BBC, referring to the populist former US president and late Italian prime minister.
“We don’t want a Borisconi in public life.”
– ‘Serious contempt’ –
“Partygate” saw Johnson and dozens of government officials fined by police for breaking the social distancing laws the government set to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Months of newspaper revelations about boozy gatherings, including on the eve of the socially distanced funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Philip, caused widespread public outrage.
It contributed to a ministerial rebellion that forced Johnson to resign as prime minister last July, though he still hinted at a political comeback.
The committee’s long-awaited report was even more critical than expected, particularly in relation to the sanction it would have recommended.
The MPs had provisionally agreed to a suspension long enough to potentially trigger a “recall” by-election in Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, in outer northwest London.
But they said his critical comments since giving evidence to the inquiry earlier this year aggravated the sanction, ruling that he was “complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee”.
Revealing details of some of the report’s conclusions last week before it was published was also “a very serious contempt”, they added.
Johnson, the populist architect of Brexit, led the Conservative party to a landslide victory at the last general election in December 2019, but only won a 7,200-vote majority in his own constituency.
The committee recommended that Johnson be stripped of his parliamentary pass as a former MP. A vote is due on Monday — Johnson’s 59th birthday.