April 22, 2022 11.23 am This story is over 25 months old

U-turns, smear accusations and no vote necessary: PM to face Partygate probe

As Johnson jetted off to India, MPs debated his lockdown antics

By Local Democracy Reporter

Boris Johnson is to be investigated over claims he misled Parliament over Downing Street lockdown parties, after the government pulled the plug on plans to attempt a vote delay.

A vote was due in the House of Commons on Thursday in relation to a Labour motion for a committee to investigate the Prime Minister’s past comments about Whitehall gatherings.

Boris Johnson is currently in India on official business, and it was suggested the government was going to try to get this vote delayed until the full findings of the Sue Gray report had been published, as well as allowing for the Met Police to continue their investigations.

However, after some backlash from his fellow Conservative MPs, Mr Johnson and his advisors made the decision to U-turn and withdraw the amendment, meaning Members of Parliament would be given a free vote on the motion.

MP for Boston and Skegness Matt Warman.

Boston MP Matt Warman said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision that the matter can – subject to a free vote – be referred to the Privilege Committee.”

The Commons debated for more than five hours on Thursday, with damning assessments made by leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer, as well as SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who again called Mr Johnson a liar.

Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh.

Speaking in the Commons, Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh warned Starmer to be mindful with his language, citing the fact that two Members of Parliament had been killed in recent years (Jo Cox and David Amess) and divisive language would only add fuel to that fire.

While some of the PM’s colleagues expressed their disappointment, there was still a smattering of support from those in the House of Commons and beyond.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers told The Lincolnite he felt the whole motion was “politically motivated” and deflecting from the real issues at hand.

Martin Vickers is the Conservative MP for Cleethorpes.

Mr Vickers said: “The debate is simply a politically motivated move by the opposition in their attempts to undermine the Prime Minister and government. That’s what opposition parties do. A further investigation would add nothing to what we already know.

“Mr Johnson has said that he did not knowingly mislead Parliament, some people will choose not to believe him but endless investigation won’t change anything other than divert the attention of government and Parliament at a time when they should be focussing on the massive challenges facing our country.”

After these debates, MPs were asked if they supported the Labour motion to investigate Mr Johnson’s actions, to which nobody opposed, meaning it was approved without a formal vote.

Responding to the approval, former Labour MP for Lincoln, Karen Lee, took to social media to call for the Prime Minister’s resignation, questioning his “dignity” and “respect for the office”.

The Lincolnite has contacted all 11 Greater Lincolnshire MPs for their stance on the motion, and to find out if the Prime Minister could still rely on their support.

Only Mr Warman and Mr Vickers replied.

So what are the accusations against the Prime Minister?

Labour are suggesting Boris Johnson misled parliament by telling MPs laws were not broken in Downing Street during coronavirus lockdown.

He told the Commons on December 1 guidance was “completely followed”, and then a week later said he was “repeatedly assured” COVID rules were adhered to.

However, the Prime Minister was fined by the Metropolitan Police on April 13, along with his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for attending his own birthday party in the Cabinet room of Downing Street in June 2020.

This was one of 16 separate gatherings across a 20 month period to be looked into by civil servant Sue Gray in her report of alleged government gatherings during COVID-19 restrictions.

Under government guidelines, ministers who knowingly mislead the House of Commons are expected to resign, so any findings of wrongdoing from Mr Johnson could spell the end of his tenure as Prime Minister.

The investigation will now be in the hands of the Privileges Committee, producing a report that will state whether or not they believe Mr Johnson did deliberately mislead Parliament.

The Committee is made up of seven MPs, consisting of two Labour, one SNP and four Conservatives, though the chair – Labour’s Chris Bryant – has stepped back from the investigation, having already publicly commented on the issue.

Should they find Mr Johnson has in fact misled parliament, they can recommend a sanction to be placed on the Prime Minister, the severity of which varies from suspension or expulsion from Parliament, to a simple apology to the House.

Following on from this, Members of Parliament will then decide on whether or not to approve the report and implement the proposed sanctions.