Partygate probe into Boris Johnson’s conduct must be REMOVED if he returns as PM, allies say
Released: 7:07pm EDT, Oct. 21, 2022 | Updated: 7:25pm EDT, Oct. 21, 2022
Allies of Boris Johnson last night called on Tory MPs to cancel Parliament’s controversial Partygate inquiry into his conduct if he returns as Prime Minister.
A former minister close to Mr Johnson said the new government must table a motion from the House of Commons to stop the “malicious” probe by MPs that could see him suspended from Parliament.
The Commons Privileges Committee is investigating whether Mr Johnson misled MPs when he originally said no parties had been held at No 10 in breach of lockdown rules. The probe, led by Harriet Harman, former Labor Deputy Leader, has been branded a “witch hunt” by critics who believe the former Prime Minister’s enemies are trying to end his political career.
Allies of Boris Johnson have urged Tory MPs to call off Parliament’s Partygate probe into whether Mr Johnson has misled MPs if he returns as Prime Minister
If the Partygate Inquiry finds Mr Johnson guilty, he could be suspended from the House of Commons and forced to contest a by-election
An ally of the Prime Minister said if Tory MPs are serious about him becoming prime minister again they must act to end the inquiry by backing a motion by the Commons to call it off.
Commons Privileges Committee investigates whether Boris Johnson misled MPs
what is the request
The Commons Privileges Committee is investigating whether Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament about parties at Downing Street during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the third inquiry into Mr Johnson and the events in Whitehall, when Covid laws banned social gatherings, following the inquiry into senior official Sue Gray and Scotland Yard’s criminal case.
What do critics say?
Supporters of Mr Johnson have branded it a witch hunt and even a top barrister – Lord Pannick KC – warned that the inquiry would be declared unlawful unless protected from challenge by the courts. But MPs on the Privileges Committee dismissed claims that their investigation was “unfair” and “fundamentally flawed”.
What sanctions are possible?
Once the committee has presented its findings, all MEPs will vote on its recommendations. If Mr Johnson is despised and suspended from the House of Commons for more than 10 days, he could face a by-election in his marginal Uxbridge constituency.
What is the status of the request?
Labor MP Harriet Harman, who is leading the inquiry, is said to have already received damaging information from Insider No.10. There will reportedly be three weeks of hearings in November. Mr Johnson is expected to testify in person at a public hearing.
Could Boris stop the probe?
If he becomes prime minister again, Mr Johnson could organize a vote in the House of Commons on a motion to overturn the inquiry. The threat would be removed if he wins the vote – but not all Tories would support him.
“If Boris returns, the first thing we have to do is file a motion to take down this politically motivated stunt,” the source said. “Too many Tory MPs have been persuaded by Labor to back this inquiry. This is completely unconstitutional and must end now.”
Legal advice given to Downing Street by leading solicitor Lord Pannick found that the inquiry was “fundamentally flawed” – and warned that it would have a “dissuasive effect” on ministers if they were fined for a shipping box error could become. But the committee has rejected the advice and continued its investigation.
A source close to the committee told ITV News yesterday that footage already handed over by No 10 was so damning that Mr Johnson was “gone by Christmas”.
The committee is expected to subpoena Mr Johnson to testify next month.
If found guilty, he could be suspended by the House of Commons and forced to contest a by-election – making it all but impossible for him to continue as prime minister. But a source close to the former prime minister insisted he was “confident” he had done nothing wrong.
The source downplayed the prospect of calling off the investigation, saying: “He will cooperate. He is confident in his own defense – he has not done what is said to have happened.’
A Tory MP who had previously backed Mr Johnson warned that any attempt to call off the inquiry could split the party and spark a repeat of last year’s row, when ministers were accused of breaking the rules protecting the disgraced to have rewritten fallen former Minister Owen Paterson.
The MP said: “There is no way Tory MPs who may be living by their reputation, particularly the lawyers, are definitely not going to vote with Boris on this. Until someone explains otherwise, I don’t see this as anything other than a nailed down total train wreck that ruins the party forever.’
Chris Bryant, the Labor MP who chairs the Privileges Committee but has stayed away from the Partygate inquiry, said it was “highly unlikely” Parliament would vote to abolish it.
He added: “I don’t know the specifics but in the absence of such a request I would expect the committee to hear oral evidence throughout November and perhaps longer. It could report in January.’
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats launched a bid yesterday to prevent Mr Johnson from becoming prime minister again. The party has tabled a motion in parliament to prevent MPs who broke the law during their reign from going into No. 10.