Privileges committee: Boris Johnson would face 90-day suspension if he were still MP

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Johnson faces select committee
Johnson faces select committee

Johnson may have flown the Coop but he’s still creating havoc in a Tory civil war

Johnson may have departed from Westminster, but his disruptive influence continues to fuel the ongoing Tory civil war.

Supporters of Boris Johnson have launched scathing attacks against both the select committee and any Conservative MPs who have endorsed its conclusions.

This development comes in the wake of the select committee’s announcement that had Boris Johnson still been an MP, it would have recommended a 90-day suspension as a disciplinary measure.

Initially, the committee was inclined to propose a suspension lasting more than 10 sitting days, a duration that would have triggered the recall election process.

However, in response to Johnson’s Friday night statement, in which he launched a blistering critique of the committee and its preliminary findings, the committee decided to escalate the hypothetical punishment. Johnson’s statement itself was deemed a “very serious contempt” by the committee.

Now that Johnson is an ex-MP, a suspension penalty is no longer applicable. Nevertheless, the committee asserts that Johnson should not be granted the customary privileges afforded to former MPs, including access to the parliament.

The privileges committee
The privileges committee

The privileges committee stated that last week it was set to recommend a suspension for more than 10 sitting days, enough to trigger the recall election process. But it says it increased the hypothetical punishment in the light of his statement on Friday night, attacking the committee and its draft findings, which itself was “a very serious contempt”.

In its summary, the committee says:

The question which the house asked the committee is whether the house had been misled by Mr Johnson and, if so, whether that conduct amounted to contempt. It is for the house to decide whether it agrees with the committee. The house as a whole makes that decision. Motions arising from reports from this committee are debatable and amendable.

The committee had provisionally concluded that Mr Johnson deliberately misled the house and should be sanctioned for it by being suspended for a period that would trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015.

In light of Mr Johnson’s conduct in committing a further contempt on 9 June 2023, the committee now considers that if Mr Johnson were still a member he should be suspended from the service of the House for 90 days for repeated contempts and for seeking to undermine the parliamentary process, by:

a) Deliberately misleading the house.

b) Deliberately misleading the committee.

c) Breaching confidence.

d) Impugning the committee and thereby undermining the democratic process of the house.

e) Being complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee.

We recommend that he should not be entitled to a former member’s pass.

It’s Meant to be Harsh

covid plan b
Boris Johnson (front), Patrick Vallance (centre) and Chris Whitty, on their way to the press conference. Photograph: Reuters

The Commons privileges committee report makes it clear that it is being particularly harsh towards Boris Johnson because of the way he responded to its inquiry.

In a list of five reasons justifying the proposed 90-day suspension, if he had remained an MP, only one relates to what he orginally told MPs about Partygate, three relate to his response to the investigation, and one relates to what he told the committee when he gave evidence to it.

The committee says that attacks on its integrity amount to contempt of parliament, and that Johnson is an offender in this regard. It says:

[Johnson] stated that the Committee had “forced him out […] anti-democratically”. This attack on a committee carrying out its remit from the democratically elected House itself amounts to an attack on our democratic institutions. We consider that these statements are completely unacceptable. In our view this conduct, together with the egregious breach of confidentiality, is a serious further contempt.

The committee criticises Johnson for, among other things, calling it a “kangaroo court”. It does not criticise other MPs who have used similar language, but it says it is going to address this matter in a further report. In paragraph 14 it says:

From the outset of this inquiry there has been a sustained attempt, seemingly coordinated, to undermine the Committee’s credibility and, more worryingly, that of those Members serving on it. The Committee is concerned that if these behaviours go unchallenged, it will be impossible for the House to establish such a Committee to conduct sensitive and important inquiries in the future. The House must have a Committee to defend its rights and privileges, and it must protect Members of the House doing that duty from formal or informal attack or undermining designed to deter and prevent them from doing that duty. We will be making a Special Report separately to the House dealing with these matters.

The committee does not say it will be naming other offenders in this regard, and proposing sanctions. But that might be an option for the committee.

Tory Civil War Smouldering…

Rees-Mogg claims privileges committee’s chair, Harriet Harman, was biased against Johnson

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, is one of the most prominent MPs who has denigrated the committee in this way. Although his language today has been more moderate, in the past he has described the committee as a kangaroo court, and on the day it took evidence from Johnson he posted a joke tweet making the same point.

The privileges committee’s findings on Boris Johnson “is in danger of making the House of Commons look foolish”, the former business secretary Jacob Rees Mogg has said.

In an interview with GB News, the Johnson ultra-loyalist slammed the inquiry’s report, which he said contained “no real sanction”, while its recommendation that Johnson be suspended for 90 days was “merely trying to make a point”.

Rees-Mogg said the report had failed to address Johnson’s allegations that “most of the members of the committee” had already expressed deeply prejudiced remarks about the former prime minister’s guilt before they had seen the evidence and they should have recused themselves. He said:

Chris Bryant behaved absolutely properly and recused himself [from the committee’s investigation] because he had prejudged it. Harriet Harman did not and the problem with that is that the chairman of committees is extremely influential and important.

The first draft that goes to the committee to vote on is prepared by the chairman of the committee and that level of power or authority of influence is one that needs to be exercised by somebody who has not judged the case before the committee. And I think this is a fundamental flaw, which undermines all the work of the committee.

I think if you look back over the history of parliament, parliament sometimes makes great mistakes when it tries to stand on its dignity. I think that this report is in danger of making the House of Commons look foolish.

Rees-Mogg was referring to some tweets posted by Harman in April 2022, including one in which she commented, seemingly approvingly, on an Alastair Campbell tweet saying Johnson and other ministers lied repeatedly about Partygate.

This will only serve to intensify the ongoing Tory civil war, which is already simmering and poised to erupt into a full-blown inferno at the slightest influx of oxygen.

Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, staunchly asserts that any MP who supports the report is straying from the core principles of Conservatism and runs the risk of facing deselection. According to her, the report’s true intentions have been laid bare, exhibiting a peculiar and predetermined agenda.

Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, says any MP who votes for the report is “fundamentally not a Conservative” and will be at risk of deselection.

This report has overreached and revealed it’s true pre-determined intentions. It’s quite bizarre. Harman declared her position before it began. Jenkins, the most senior MP on committee attended an ACTUAL party. 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.

sacking of rome visigoths

Yet, for the majority, this spectacle has devolved into a mere sideshow, a farce now reduced to a handkerchief fight. What people want to see is the COVID INQUIRY being a thorough and comprehensive inquiry, unafraid to ask the difficult questions, to uncover the truth amidst what has only become a web of deceit, and to hold those responsible for the countless preventable deaths to account.

Furthermore, there is a pressing need to shed light on the whereabouts of our hard-earned money, to trace the path of those billions in taxpayers’ money that seemingly vanished in what can only be described as the most significant transfer of public wealth to private hands since the Visigoths sacked Rome. These are the crucial matters that demand our attention and demand answers.

In a nutshell, who’s responsible for the countless avoidable deaths and where’s our money…

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