Boris Johnson lied to MPs about lockdown-breaking parties during the Covid epidemic, resulting in a 90-day ban if he had not resigned as a politician, a parliament committee decided Thursday.
The Privileges Committee, which probes breaches of House of Commons rules, concluded that Johnson was guilty of “repeated contempts (of parliament) and… seeking to undermine the parliamentary process”.
“The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the prime minister, the most senior member of the government,” they stated in a damning 106-page report.
“There is no precedent for a prime minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House.
“He misled the House on an issue of the greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly.”
The seven-member committee, which has a majority of MPs from Johnson’s Conservative party, has the authority to suggest sanctions against rule-breakers, which must be voted on by MPs.
However, Johnson, 58, avoided having to face his colleagues – and the humiliation of perhaps having to seek for re-election in his electorate – by retiring as an MP only days before the report was revealed.
Johnson, who resigned as prime minister in July owing to “Partygate” and a slew of other scandals, claimed in his resignation statement last Friday that he was the victim of a “kangaroo court” set-up by his political opponents.
On Thursday, he remained unapologetic, calling the report “deranged” and the 14-month inquiry into his claims to parliament a “charade.”
He argued that his presence at the Downing Street gatherings in question was “lawful, and required” by his profession.
“This is a dreadful day for MPs and for democracy,” Johnson said in an angry 1,700-word statement.
“This decision means that no MP is free from vendetta, or expulsion on trumped-up charges by a tiny minority who want to see him or her gone from the Commons.
“I do not have the slightest contempt for Parliament, or for the important work that should be done by the Privileges Committee.
“But for the Privileges Committee to use its prerogatives in this anti-democratic way, to bring about what is intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination –- that is beneath contempt.”
The official spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to comment on Johnson’s criticism, stating the committee was “properly constituted… carrying out work at the behest of parliament.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the major opposition Labour Party, compared Johnson’s tantrum to “a toddler who has thrown his toys out of the pram because he’s been caught and he doesn’t like it.”
Max Hastings, Johnson’s former Daily Telegraph editor, said the committee exposed the ex-leader “for what he always was” and urged for trust in politicians to be restored.
“We need to show that we reject the Trump school of life and Berlusconi school of life,” he told the BBC, referring to the populist former US president and late Italian prime minister.
“We don’t want a Borisconi in public life.”
“Partygate” saw Johnson and dozens of government employees penalized by police for violating the government’s social distance rules, which were put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Months of newspaper stories about inebriated meetings, particularly on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Philip’s, socially distant funeral, sparked considerable public resentment.
It aided a ministerial revolt that prompted Johnson to resign as prime minister in July, but he hinted at a political comeback.
The long-awaited findings of the committee was considerably harsher than expected, particularly in terms of the sentence it would have suggested.
The MPs had provisionally agreed to a suspension long enough to potentially trigger a “recall” by-election in Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, in outer northwest London.
But they said his critical comments since giving evidence to the inquiry earlier this year aggravated the sanction, ruling that he was “complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee”.
Revealing details of some of the report’s conclusions last week before it was published was also “a very serious contempt”, they added.
Johnson, the populist architect of Brexit, led the Conservative Party to a resounding win in the December 2019 general election, but only secured a 7,200-vote majority in his own district.
The committee recommended that Johnson’s parliamentary pass as a former MP be revoked. The election is scheduled on Monday, Johnson’s 59th birthday.