The panel of MPs examining claims that Boris Johnson lied to parliament over “partygate” is meeting to conclude its inquiry – and is poised to deliver a damning verdict.
After the former PM reacted with fury after being given advance notice of the privileges committee’s findings, MPs are predicting he will face strong condemnation of his conduct.
It has been suggested that – before Mr Johnson’s shock resignation as an MP – the committee had been discussing a 20-day suspension, triggering a recall petition and potential by-election.
He cannot be suspended now he has resigned, but he could be refused a parliamentary pass offered to former MPs, a sanction imposed on former speaker John Bercow after a bullying report.
The Guardian is reporting that MPs on the committee received threats from members of the public over the weekend and some Johnson allies urged Tory members to write to the committee to try to influence its decision.
But the paper also reports that former Tory minister Tim Loughton said Mr Johnson should now “shut up and go away” and branded the former prime minister’s allies a “mob”.
In his angry resignation statement on Friday evening, Mr Johnson claimed there was a “witch-hunt underway, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result”.
The committee of seven MPs – with a Tory majority and chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman – hit back: “The committee has followed the procedures and the mandate of the House at all times and will continue to do so.
“Mr Johnson has departed from the processes of the House and has impugned the integrity of the House by his statement. The committee will meet on Monday to conclude its inquiry and to publish its report promptly.”
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In a report expected to be hard-hitting, the committee is believed to have found that Mr Johnson not only made recklessly inaccurate statements in the Commons but also deliberately lied to MPs.
In addition, the committee is expected to rule that during his appearance before it in March, Mr Johnson made further inaccurate claims under oath, making him guilty of contempt of parliament.
Another factor was evidence handed to the committee and to police by the COVID inquiry last month about claims of rule-breaking at Chequers, denied by Mr Johnson when he appeared before the committee.
Ahead of the committee’s meeting to sign off its report, the inquiry process came under furious attack from one of Mr Johnson’s closest allies, his former City Hall and Downing Street spin doctor Guto Harri.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News, Mr Harri claimed his old boss had been “hounded out of politics” and accused Ms Harman of being politically biased against Mr Johnson.
“Amongst the many jobs that Harriet Harman has done in the past has been leading the Labour Party; she was deputy leader of the Labour Party for a long time,” Mr Harri said.
“Can you imagine any Labour supporter being happy if someone like William Hague, shall we say, had the fate of Keir Starmer in his hands when he was caught drinking beer and having curry with friends a long way from home in the middle of lockdown?
“I don’t think people would be comfortable with that process and nor should they be. And so I understand why Boris feels aggrieved.
“And I understand why a lot of people watching this will think, whoa, a committee led by the former Labour leader can actually hound Boris out of office when the police actually found him guilty of one minor misdemeanour that was worth a £50 fine.”