Today, British Members of Parliament (MPs) will vote on a report that accuses former Prime Minister Boris Johnson of intentionally lying to parliament regarding parties that broke lockdown rules, marking a critical moment in the ongoing “Partygate” scandal. The government hopes that this vote will bring closure to the damaging controversy.
Taking place on Johnson’s 59th birthday, the parliamentary vote coincides with a period of increasing political challenges for Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government. The nation is grappling with persistently high inflation and rising interest rates, causing economic distress among voters.
Johnson, a prominent figure in the Brexit movement, led the Conservative party to a resounding victory in the December 2019 general election. However, he was compelled to step down as prime minister last July due to the Partygate scandal and a series of other scandals.
Johnson has refuted the findings of the Privileges Committee’s report, alleging that he has been targeted by political opponents and subjected to an unfair trial. The committee, in a scathing 106-page document published on Thursday, found Johnson guilty of “repeated contempts (of parliament) and… seeking to undermine the parliamentary process.”
The report emphasized the seriousness of the contempt, particularly because it was committed by the prime minister, the highest-ranking member of the government. It stated that there is no precedent for a prime minister deliberately misleading the House.
While the parliamentary vote is expected to draw a line under the Partygate scandal, another video emerged on Sunday, showing Tory party officials attending a party in December 2020 during the lockdown. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove apologized for the breach of Covid rules at a time when the public was prohibited from socializing or meeting loved ones.
Had Johnson not resigned as a lawmaker on June 9 after receiving an advance copy of the report, he could have faced a 90-day suspension and the humiliation of running for re-election in his constituency.
Although a few close allies of Johnson are likely to vote against the report, they reportedly do not believe that the recommended sanction of revoking his parliamentary pass carries any practical consequences.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP and loyalist to Johnson, expressed his belief that the former prime minister may eventually stage a comeback. He wrote in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph on Saturday, “Perhaps, after the next election, Boris Johnson will return to the fray with a new electoral mandate… His undimmed ebullience and joie de vivre, along with renewed sympathy from the electorate, leave him as a powerful force in politics.”
Liz Truss, who briefly assumed the position of prime minister after Johnson’s departure last September, stated that she would “never, ever, ever write Boris off.” She viewed the proposed revocation of Johnson’s parliamentary pass as “very harsh.”
Meanwhile, Sunak is facing the prospect of four potential by-elections, three of which are linked to the fallout from Johnson’s actions. These by-elections will provide an opportunity for voters to express their discontent over the government’s failure to address inflation and the cost of living crisis.
As the Johnson affair continues to ensnare MPs, commentators have repeatedly warned of a “mortgage time bomb” due to ongoing interest rate hikes. Former Conservative minister Justine Greening emphasized the importance of MPs supporting the Privileges Committee’s report, stating that it would be easier to convince the public that the government has moved on if the report receives decisive backing.