Boris Johnson may be stripped of parliamentary pass over ‘kangaroo court’ Privileges Committee report


Boris Johnson faces having his parliamentary pass removed after being found to have “deliberately” misled MPs over partygate, triggering a furious response from the former prime minister.

The House of Commons Privilege Committee said in its long-awaited report that a 90-day Commons suspension would have been proposed if Mr Johnson was still an MP.

In turn, Mr Johnson accused the committee of being a “kangaroo court”, with its seven MPs accused of delivering the “final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

The report’s publication on Thursday morning now tees up a crunch vote on Monday that could see MPs wave through the report’s conclusion and its proposed punishment.

In the immediate aftermath of the conclusions a small faction of Tory MPs supportive of Mr Johnson took to Twitter to warn colleagues from backing the report.

Nadine Dorries said Tory MPs risk “deselection” if they vote for the report’s conclusions, while James Duddridge likened the findings to Mr Johnson being put in the stocks.

The report, which brings to a close more than a year of investigation into whether Mr Johnson misled MPs by denying lockdown-breaking events in Number 10, was scathing.

The committee said that Mr Johnson should have known that Covid rules were broken at six different gatherings, adding that any “reasonable” person would have reached that conclusion.

It also said that he misled MPs in five different ways on at least four occasions, saying that the former prime minister had been “disingenuous” at points.

They questioned the basis for Mr Johnson’s initial blanket denial in the Commons that all rules and guidance were followed in Number 10, noting only two media advisers gave assurances on a single event.

Former prime minister ‘closed his mind to the truth’

Mr Johnson’s claim was proved to be wrong, with the Metropolitan Police issuing 126 fines for Covid law-breaking over at least eight events in government buildings in 2020 and 2021. The committee also singled out Mr Johnson’s fierce criticism of the investigation, saying it amounted to another “very serious contempt” and “an attack on our democratic institutions”.

The report concluded that the former prime minister “closed his mind to the truth”.

One part of the report read: “Mr Johnson is adamant that he believed all of the events which he attended and of which he had direct knowledge were essential.

“That belief, which he continues to assert, has no reasonable basis in the Rules or on the facts. A reasonable person looking at the events and the Rules would not have the belief that Mr Johnson has professed.”

Just as the report was published at 9am on Thursday, Mr Johnson released a 1,700-word statement rebutting the conclusions in the strongest terms.

Mr Johnson wrote at one point: “This is a dreadful day for MPs and for democracy. 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.

Committee is ‘anti-democratic’

“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.

“It is for the people of this country to decide who sits in parliament, not Harriet Harman.”

Ms Harman is the former acting Labour leader who chaired the investigation. Seven MPs sat on the committee, including four Conservatives – meaning there was a Tory majority.

The 90-day proposed suspension mentioned by the committee is much higher than was widely expected. Any suspension over 10 days could have led to a by-election.

Mr Johnson announced he was resigning as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Friday, meaning he cannot be suspended from the Commons since he has now left.

The committee said that it had already concluded a suspension for 10 days or more would have been the recommendation before his resignation, though no original figure is given. The 90 day figure was picked after he quit.

Focus now turns to Monday, when a motion about the report will be put before the Commons in what could be a defining moment in Mr Johnson’s hopes of a political comeback. The exact wording of the motion is yet to be published, but it is expected to give MPs the chance to approve the report’s recommendations and its proposed punishment.

That means the Commons could formally conclude Mr Johnson is in contempt – a black mark against his name – and agree to remove his parliamentary pass.

No former PM is known to have faced such a sanction

All former MPs get such passes, allowing them to freely come and go on the parliamentary estate. No former prime minister is known to have faced such a sanction.

Downing Street will not whip Tory MPs to vote either way, meaning effectively they have been given the all clear to vote against Mr Johnson if they wish.

Given almost all opposition MPs are expected to vote against Mr Johnson, it will likely take just a few dozen Tory MPs – or possibly even fewer if not all MPs turn up – to cast ballots against Mr Johnson for a vote which hurts him politically to pass.

Within a few hours of the report being published a small band of Tory MPs loyal to Mr Johnson went public with support and, in place, warnings to colleagues over the vote.

Ms Dorries, the Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire who announced her resignation last week, tweeted: “Any Conservative MP who would vote for this report is fundamentally not a Conservative and will be held to account by  members and the public. Deselections may follow. It’s serious. MPs will now have to show this committee what real justice looks like and how it’s done.”

It remains to be seen how widespread is such support for Mr Johnson among Tory colleagues.