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Boris Johnson Allies "Undermined" Privileges Committee, Report Concludes

Jacob Rees Mogg has been accused of undermining the privilege committee's investigation into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament. (Alamy)

4 min read

The Privileges Committee has concluded that Tory MPs among Boris Johnson's most loyal supporters, including Jacob Rees Mogg and Nadine Dorries, "undermined" their investigation into whether the former prime minister misled parliament over partygate.

In a report published on 15th June, the committee concluded that Johnson had misled the House of Commons over what he knew about parties that took place in Downing Street during the Covid lockdowns. The recommended sanctions included suspending Boris Johnson from attending Parliament for 90 days and revoking his members pass, which MPs voted to approve last week.

An additional report by the Privileges Committee, which was published today, found a group of Johnson's supporters had disrupted and frustrated its original inquiry. The follow-up document said the group had "sustained" and attack to "undermine" the investigation into whether Johnson misled parliament. 

A handful of Johnson allies believed the original panel was "biased" and said the committee's damning recommendations against Johnson were "extreme and obscene". Johnson ultimately resigned as an MP in anticipation of the report's conclusions, which he strongly disputed. It is possible that Johnson would have been forced out of parliament had he not stood down himself, as the sanctions would have triggered an automatic challenge to his position as an MP.

The parliamentarians named by today's report as having attacked the committee included Nadine Dorries, Lord Goldsmith, Mark Jenkinson, Sir Michael Fabricant, Brendan Clarke-Smith, Andrea Jenkyns and Priti Patel. It stated the MPs and Lords used newspapers, radio and "extensive" social media to attack the committee. 

It stated that MPs are allowed to object and vote for who sits on the committee, vote against or amend the motion, make comments on the Committee's procedure, submit evidence and debate the report once it's been published. However, it said the named MPs had no right for the "pressure" MPs put on members of the Privileges Committee during the inquiry. 

Under section 12 of the report, it stated members of the Commons are prohibited from lobbying members of the Committee which intends to "influence" the final decision. 

MPs with a large audience, including former cabinet ministers Rees Mogg and Dorries, who have their own national TV shows and large audiences on social media, were heavily criticised for the report.

On her show Friday Night With Nadine, the ex-culture secretary likened the Privileges Committee panel to a "kangaroo court". Rees Mogg also criticised the Committee after saying it made "kangaroo courts look respectable" on BBC Radio 4, which has a current audience of almost ten million listeners.  

Former home secretary Patel said there was "a culture of collusion" during the committee.  Clarke Smith, MP for Bassetlaw elected in 2019, tweeted in June that the inquiry was a "parliamentary witch-hunt".

The report concluded such comments were "some of the most disturbing examples" of a "co-ordinated" campaign against the committee. 

It made clear, however, that the "unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure" on the Privileges Committee did not ultimately affect the outcome of the inquiry. It added it is up to the Commons to decide if any "further action" is taken on MPs who attempted to undermine the Committee. 

Staunch Johnson allies were nonetheless critical of the follow-up report. “I stand by my statement. Some of the members of the Privileges Committee treated their witness, Boris Johnson, with contempt by gestures and other actions. Had it been in a law court, the judge would have called them to order. Respect for the Committee needs to be earned,” Fabricant tweeted

Mark Jenkinson, who was also named in the report, claimed the committee had "performed a Twitter search for terms they don’t like and pasted them in a table".

"On publication of the previous report I said it had overreached. Prior to publication I had not referred to the committee. Yet in another perfect example of gross overreach, the committee used a tweet that did not refer to them and was about the media witch hunt of Boris Johnson," he tweeted

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour's Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to condemn "Conservative colleagues who have sought to override Parliament’s standards system to get one of their own off the hook".

“Rishi Sunak has allowed senior members of his own party to undermine and attack Britain’s democratic institutions. This includes a serving government minister and two former Cabinet ministers. 

“It’s yet another example of the Prime Minister’s weakness and failure to hold his own ministers to high standards that Zac Goldsmith is still a government minister.

“It’s time Rishi Sunak condemned his Conservative colleagues who have sought to override Parliament’s standards system to get one of their own off the hook. He must accept the committee's damming conclusions and make time for MPs to approve the report in full.

“While Rishi Sunak focuses on keeping the Boris Johnson sycophants in his own party happy, people up and down the country are left facing the cost of the Tory mortgage penalty and soaring rents. Keir Starmer will restore trust in politics, show leadership on the issues that matter to working people and act immediately to bring down the cost of living.” 

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