MPs have backed a report that found Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament over lockdown parties at Downing Street.
The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in support of the Privileges Committee’s condemnation of the former Prime Minister, by 354 to seven. Notably, several senior Conservatives publicly came out against their ex-boss - including Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, and former PM Theresa May.
However, a significant number of Tory MPs also chose to abstain from the vote - while other allies of Johnson voted against the report as they questioned the impartiality of the Privileges Committee. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not attend the debate and has refused to say how he would have voted, telling Good Morning Britain he did not want to influence others.
The group of cross-party MPs which investigated Johnson - made up of four Conservative, two Labour, and one from the SNP - decided that Johnson had committed “repeated contempts” of Parliament by denying lockdown-breaking parties on multiple occasions. It argued he had made “denials and explanations so disingenous” that it believed his misleading of MPs had been “deliberate”.
Johnson, who announced his resignation as an MP after seeing an advance copy of the report, hit out at what he branded a “deranged conclusion” - calling the Privileges Committee “beneath contempt”. In a furious statement, the former Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP, who would have been suspended from Parliament had he not already resigned, added: “This is rubbish. It is a lie. This is a dreadful day for MPs and for democracy.”
The scandal has also been turned into a drama called Partygate which is set to air on Channel 4 tonight (October 3). Set during the height of the Covid pandemic, it features a guest appearance by Jon Culshaw as then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and follows two fictional special advisors caught up in the scandal.
But how did opposition parties vote, which Tories voted against Johnson, which chose to abstain, and which ones still supported the former Prime Minister? Here’s everything you need to know about how your MP voted on the report.
Overall, 118 Tories voted ‘for’. This included former Prime Minister Theresa May, who told her colleagues in a debate prior to the vote that backing the report would be “a small but important step in restoring people’s trust” in Parliament. She added that it was “important to show the public that there is not one rule for them and another for us.”
Meanwhile, senior Conservative Tobias Ellwood, told MPs it was a “highly symbolic” day as Parliament sought to “bring to a conclusion a very difficult chapter in British politics”. He said that because Johnson had already quit, many MPs, including himself, had initially thought the report was not worth voting on. But he since changed his mind, concluding that the vote was “the collective conscience of Parliament, if you like, being judged by the British people.”
Labour chief whip Sir Alan Campbell repeatedly shouted “no, no” when the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle asked whether MPs supported the report on Johnson. This was done to trigger the vote, meaning he did not in reality dismiss the conclusion by the Privileges Committee.
Fletcher in the past defended Johnson’s actions during ‘Partygate’, remarking: “We must remember that he is a human, too. In addition to running the country, he dealt with the highs and lows that this life brings. During Covid, he nearly died. He got married, lost his mum, and had a child.”
He also criticised the Privileges Committee: “These Committees are set up to fail before they start. Why? Let me use a football analogy. If Man City’s star player had to sit in front of seven of his peers for a hearing, how fair would it be if three of the committee were Man United players? Not very. No matter how honourable they were, the opportunity to take out the opposition’s star player would be too much.”
The Don Valley MP then argued that only Conservatives should have been allowed to vote on the report.
Although she did not vote, Tory MP Lia Nici told MPs during the debate that she could not see any evidence that showed Johnson had misled Parliament. She argued that the process was simply “political opportunism” for people who did not like Johnson.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who previously described the proposed 90-day suspension of Johnson as a “vindictive sanction” backed up Nici, claiming it was “absolutely legitimate to criticise the conduct” of the Privileges Committee and its members.
It was reported that Johnson had asked his supporters not to vote against the report, with sources arguing it had no practical effect since he had already resigned. However, his critics suggested the move was designed to avoid revealing the low level of support for him among Tory MPs.