No 10 will co-operate with Johnson lie probe despite calls for Tory MPs to quit

·4-min read
No 10 will co-operate with Johnson lie probe despite calls for Tory MPs to quit
No 10 will co-operate with Johnson lie probe despite calls for Tory MPs to quit

CULTURE Secretary Nadine Dorries has repeated her call for Conservative MPs to quit a parliamentary inquiry investigating whether Boris Johnson lied about parties in No 10 during lockdown.

She described the probe as “Machiavellian.”

However, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he would co-operate fully with the Commons Privileges Committee.

The MPs are investigating whether Mr Johnson misled parliament when he said the rules had been "followed at all times" in Downing Street.

The Committee is chaired by the veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman, but most of the members are Tories.

Even though he is standing down as Prime Minister, if they find Mr Johnson in contempt of Parliament, they could recommend he is suspended or expelled from the Commons.

Ms Dorries, one of Mr Johnson’s staunchest supporters, on Sunday tweeted: “If this witch hunt continues, it will be the most egregious abuse of power witnessed in Westminster.

“It will cast serious doubt not only on the reputation of individual MPs sitting on the committee, but on the processes of Parliament and democracy itself”.

On Monday, she tweeted: ”Collective hatred of Labour MPs towards ⁦@BorisJohnson for delivering Brexit and 80 seat maj for Gov taking traditional Labour seats, knows no bounds.

"This Machiavellian enquiry is the means to a by-election and Con MPs should have no part in it.”

Lord Goldsmith, who was given a life peerage by Mr Johnson agreed. He tweeted: “The Partygate probe is clearly rigged.

“It is a jury comprised of highly partisan, vengeful & vindictive MPs, nearly all of whom are already on the record viciously attacking the person they are judging. It is an obscene abuse of power.”

In response to Ms Dorries’s comment, Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “Let’s talk about abuse of power such as illegally suspending parliament or doling out peerages to donors or tearing up the rules to protect Owen Paterson.

“The real abuse of power would be suspending an inquiry to protect your mate”.

Mr Bryant recused himself from chairing the inquiry after publicly criticising Mr Johnson.

Ms Dorries and Lord Goldsmith shared a Mail on Sunday article that claimed the committee’s original investigation was to establish whether the Prime Minister had intended to mislead MPs, but that it was then changed to look into whether he did so intentionally or unintentionally.

However, a spokesman for the Privileges Committee said the article was inaccurate: “There has been no change to the rules or to terms of reference.”

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “There is a process for this. We will respond to the Privileges Committee in their work in due course. We want to look at this properly and abide by the process.

“This is something Parliament voted for. We will assist the committee in their inquiries so they can bring it to a conclusion.

“We would expect the committee to abide by the rules in that circumstance.”

Mr Johnson has already been fined by police following an investigation into a slew of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall.

He was also criticised in a damning report by senior civil servant Sue Gray, which laid bare the extent of raucous behaviour in No 10 at a time when most of the country was cutting off contact with loved ones.

When asked in parliament in December last year if there was a party in No 10 on November 13, 2020, Mr Johnson said, "No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times."

However, there were two parties in No 10 on November 13.

Ms Gray's report included pictures of the Prime Minister at one of those events with members of staff.

The report says that while the gathering to mark the departure of communications chief Lee Cain was not pre-planned, "It did occur at around the time that 'Wine Time Friday' would normally be taking place."

 

The other gathering was in the private flat of Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie, it followed the departure of chief adviser Dominic Cummings.

Ms Gray said the "information collected on this gathering is limited" and that after the Met concluded its investigation, "I considered whether or not to conduct any further investigation into this event but concluded it was not appropriate or proportionate to do so."

The Mail on Sunday described the event as a "victory party" and reported that Abba songs including "The Winner Takes It All" were heard being played loudly.

 

It is understood the MPs on the committee intend to call Mr Johnson to give oral evidence in public in the autumn.