The House of Commons Privilege Committee has delivered a blistering ruling on Boris Johnson’s performance in the partygate scandal.
The seven-member, cross-party commission released a 108-page report on Thursday following a 14-month investigation into the former prime minister.
The committee has investigated whether Johnson deliberately misled parliament after stating as prime minister that Covid-19 rules were being followed at all times following media reports of Downing Street parties being held during pandemic restrictions. Below are five takeaways from the report’s release.
1. Johnson committed ‘repeated contempt’ of parliament
The former prime minister was convicted by the Privileges Committee of multiple contempt of parliament by lying to MPs with his denials that parties were taking place in No. 10 during coronavirus restrictions.
The committee’s MPs also concluded that Johnson was complicit in “a campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation” against the panel.
The report found that some of Johnson’s denials and statements “were so insincere that they were, by nature, deliberate attempts to mislead the committee and the House,” while others “showed deliberation because of the frequency with which he closed his mind to the truth.” .
As parliament runs its own affairs, the committee had been mandated to determine whether Johnson had committed any “contempt” – an offense defined as an act or omission that interferes or impedes the House of Commons in the performance of its functions, and any appropriate sanction.
2. Johnson would have faced a 90-day suspension by the House of Commons
The committee said it would have recommended Johnson a 90-day suspension from the House of Commons had he not pre-empted such an outcome by resigning as an MP last Friday.
The proposed sanction was nine times the length of the suspension needed to trigger a so-called recall campaign, which would have enabled voters to demand Johnson by-elections to oust him.
The harsh sanction was proposed as punishment for Johnson’s repeated contempt and for “undermining the parliamentary process” on several counts.
These include lying to the House of Commons and the committee, breaching the confidence of the committee by publicly announcing its draft conclusions last Friday, challenging the integrity of the panel and complicity in the attempted intimidation of MPs.
The committee’s formal minutes show that SNP member Allan Dorans and Labor member Yvonne Fovargue pushed for Johnson to be permanently removed from the House of Commons, rather than temporarily suspended.
3. A parliamentary pass must be memorized
In light of Johnson’s departure and the fact that a suspension of the House of Commons is not possible, the committee has recommended that he be denied the parliamentary entry usually granted to former MPs.
It is a sanction imposed earlier in 2022 on former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow after he was found to be “a serial liar” and a “serial bully” by parliamentary staff in a report by an independent panel of experts.
The House of Commons is set to vote Monday to approve the privileges committee’s report on Johnson and the recommended sanction.
The free vote – which will not see Tory MPs whipped into supporting the parliamentary motion on the report – will be a major test for Johnson, who will reveal just how much parliamentary support he still commands at this low point in his political career.
4. Unexplored territory for a former prime minister
The Privileges Committee made it clear that Johnson’s “serious contempt” for deliberately misleading the House was “all the more serious” because he was Prime Minister at the time it happened.
“There is no precedent for a prime minister who deliberately misled the House,” the report said.
It acknowledged that this case would now set its own precedent for “the standards of accountability and fairness expected by the House of Ministers”.
MPs also found Johnson had breached confidentiality requirements in his resignation statement last Friday by criticizing the committee’s draft findings.
Johnson’s conduct “in making this statement is in itself a very serious contempt,” the report said.
5. Johnson hits back at committee
In a furious 1,680-word statement, Johnson variously derided the privileges commission’s conclusions as “nonsense,” “a lie,” “insane,” “patently absurd,” and “a load of complete tripe.”
The former prime minister accused the committee of pursuing a political agenda.
He credited Harriet Harman, committee chair and veteran Labor MP, for expressing “biased views” about his partygate behavior before the inquiry began.
He also criticized Sir Bernard Jenkin, committee member and longtime Tory MP, for reportedly harboring “personal antipathy” towards him.
On the committee’s central finding that he had lied to Parliament with his assurances in the Commons despatch box that Covid regulations had been followed at all times in Downing Street, Johnson reiterated his insistence that he believed the rules had been followed.
He said he still found it “mysterious” that he had broken the law at his “so-called birthday party” in Downing Street during the lockdown, which he characterized as “lunch at my desk with people I worked with every day”. ”.
Johnson became the first prime minister to commit a criminal offense while in office after attending a Downing Street birthday party in June 2020 that was found to have broken coronavirus rules. In April 2022, Johnson paid a fine for attending the rally.