Tory support for Boris Johnson is eroding tonight as party veterans liken his response to a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into misleading MPs over “Partygate” to former US President Donald Trump’s lies.
Several Conservative MPs in senior positions reacted with disbelief after Johnson and his dwindling band of allies questioned the work of the independent Commons Privileges Committee, accusing it of “outrageous levels of bias”, it said on Friday. That there was a significant amount of evidence. suggesting that the former PM may have misled Parliament.
Referring to Johnson and his supporters, a senior lawmaker well aware of Partygate said: “They’ve gone full Trump. It’s rogue. Where will it end? They’re desperate.” that Johnson was “like Trump, who says black is white, white is black”.
Tory chairman of the Defense Select Committee Tobias Ellwood said the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, had shown real leadership with last week’s deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol, but warned that progress was being put at risk by Johnson. In reference to the former PM’s behaviour, Ellwood said: “If we stay united and disciplined now we can win the general election, but not when this latest distraction turns into a Trumpian drag anchor.”
Other Tories in high positions in the party said that Johnson may have single-handedly committed contempt of Parliament in the last 48 hours – attacking, ridiculing and undermining the work of the committee, which has been specifically voted down by the Commons. was authorized to see whether he had told the truth to MPs.
Sir Bob Neill, the Tory chairman of the all-party justice select committee and a lawyer, told The Observer: “It is wrong for anyone to try to undermine the work of a parliamentary committee.”
Friends of Johnson claim the appointment of former civil servant Sue Gray – who last year investigated the Downing Street lockdown parties – as his chief of staff, by Labor leader Keir Starmer, was a ploy to oust the Partygate Brexit-supporter. It was a politically motivated conspiracy. PM and Labor benefit.
MPs supporting Johnson plan to submit urgent questions to the Commons on Monday about Gray’s appointment, one told Observer What he regarded as a “constitutional outcry that undermines the civil service as a whole”.
It is expected that the Government Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) could delay Gray’s start date by up to two years to ease concerns over potential conflicts of interest – moving it ahead of the next general election .
Meanwhile, as Johnson’s aides accused him of staging a “political show trial”, the Privileges Committee issued a statement specifically countering suggestions from him and his supporters that it was considering its interim findings on Gray’s report. depended on to reach.
It said that none of the witness evidence was from Gray and that it had all been independently verified and compiled. Committee sources said MPs did not and had not intended to seek evidence from Grey. He said its evidence included written statements from 23 witnesses as well as WhatsApp messages, photos from the official Downing Street photographer and other material provided by the government. “It is 100% wrong to say that what [is] From Grey,” said one MP.
A Tory MP who chairs a separate Commons committee said: “It is clear that Boris is trying to play his way out of all this. Any fool can see that.
On Saturday night, a friend of Johnson’s, authorized to speak on his behalf, attacked the Committee of Privileges, which is chaired by Harriet Harman of Labour, but has a Tory majority. The friend said it was “made up of politicians who are already on record saying they think Boris is guilty” and that the investigation was “tainted before it even started”.
The friend said: “This is a political show trial with an outrageous level of bias, orchestrated by Labor for the benefit of Keir Starmer.”
Using Johnson’s knowledge of the classics, he added: “It violates a long-standing principle of natural justice – Nemo Judex at Sua Causa – No one can judge a case in which they have a political interest, and where they have already said that the person is guilty.
“And now we learn that the committee intends to rely on the work of none other than Chief of Staff Keir Starmer. How can this process possibly be fair?”
Downing Street declined to say whether Rishi Sunak would continue to support the Privileges Committee. Sources said it is completely independent of the government and hence it would be inappropriate to comment on its work.
On Friday the committee published a 24-page report suggesting breaches [lockdown] The guidance would have been “clear” for Johnson at the time he was in the meetings.
It said there was evidence “the House of Commons may have been misled” by Johnson who told it that “all guidelines were fully followed” during the meetings.
Johnson responded to Friday’s interim report by insisting that it “exonerated” him because it presented “no evidence” that he had lied to Parliament.
Observer It is understood the report by the committee was published after Johnson’s own lawyers sought information about the issues the former prime minister will give evidence to in front of his seven MPs later this month.
Sources close to the committee said the interim findings were made public because it was accountable to Parliament and the public, not Johnson alone.
In his initial reaction to the committee’s findings on Friday, Johnson said: “The committee has produced a report which I believe completely exonerates me because there is no evidence that when I stood in Parliament So I said anything which I did not believe and hence there is no contempt.’
He said it was “surreal to find that the committee proposes to rely on evidence fabricated by Sue Grey, who has just been appointed Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Labor Party”.