Boris Johnson will not get a fair hearing from the cross-party privileges committee because some of the MPs on it seem to “have predetermined their view” on his guilt, an ally of the former prime minister has argued ahead of a week that could spell the end of Johnson’s parliamentary career.
The Bournemouth West MP, Conor Burns, who served as a minister under Johnson, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that Harriet Harman, the Labour MP who is chairing the Conservative-majority committee, had previously said she believed Johnson had misled the Commons.
Burns said he had spoken to Johnson on Sunday afternoon. He said: “He is looking forward to the opportunity of getting his case out there, to putting his case to the committee on Wednesday, to answering their questions.”
Johnson could be questioned for up to four hours on Wednesday on what he knew about lockdown-breaking gatherings in and around Downing Street, and thus whether he had either lied when he told the Commons all rules had been followed, or if he did not properly correct the record when he learned the truth.
If the committee finds Johnson misled MPs, it could recommend a suspension from the Commons. A ban of 10 days or more could trigger a recall petition in Johnson’s constituency, and result in him being ejected from parliament. MPs will get a free vote on whether to approve any suspension.
Johnson has been rehearsing for the televised hearing, with his legal team due to send the committee a document on Monday afternoon setting out his defence, which he can also publish, once details such as some officials’ names are removed.
Johnson’s team told the Times on Monday that the “dossier” would include WhatsApp messages showing he was assured no rules had been broken, and would cite Harman’s tweet highlighted by Burns to argue the committee was biased.
Stephen Greenhalgh, who was a deputy London mayor under Johnson, who then made him a peer, told Times Radio he was worried about “a witch-hunt”, saying the four Tory members of the committee should pull out.
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who lost the Conservative whip as an MP under Johnson, said such a comment “just shows that elements of the Conservative party are still delusional about Mr Johnson, and if they want to continue along that path it’s a matter for them”.
He told Sky News: “But Mr Johnson is not going to help the Conservative party’s electoral fortunes.”