Legislators in the United Kingdom have voted to approve a report that recommended sanctioning former Prime Minister Boris Johnson for lying to parliament about boozy, law-breaking parties held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House of Commons voted 354 to seven on Monday to endorse the privileges committee’s report, which concluded that the former leader should have his parliamentary pass revoked. Had he not already quit, it would have also recommended a 90-day suspension from parliament.
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Johnson abruptly resigned from parliament 10 days ago after seeing an advance copy of the report, calling the inquiry a “witch hunt”.
“It is important to show the public that there is not one rule for them and another for us,” said Conservative Party politician Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister.
Opening the five-hour debate, House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt urged legislators to “do what they think is right”. Mordaunt, a Conservative like Johnson, said she would vote to endorse the report by the Commons Privileges Committee.
“This matters because the integrity of our institutions matter. The respect and trust afforded to them matters,” said Mordaunt. “This has real-world consequences for the accountability of members of Parliament to each other and the members of the public they represent.”
‘A number of commitments’
A handful of Johnson allies spoke up to defend the former leader. MP Lia Nici said, “I cannot see where the evidence is where Boris Johnson misled Parliament knowingly, intentionally or recklessly”.
Many Conservative MPs were absent from the debate – including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Wary of riling Johnson’s remaining supporters, he stayed away.
Max Blain, Sunak’s spokesman, said the prime minister had “a number of commitments,” including a meeting with Sweden’s leader.
Johnson, who turned 59 on Monday, was not there either. He stepped down as prime minister in September 2022 but remained an MP until June 9, when he quit after receiving notice of the Privileges Committee’s findings.
Monday’s debate was the latest aftershock from the “Partygate” scandal over gatherings in the prime minister’s Downing Street headquarters and other government buildings in 2020 and 2021.
The revelation that political staffers held birthday gatherings, garden parties, and “wine time Fridays” during the pandemic sparked anger among Britons who had followed rules imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, unable to visit friends and family – or even say goodbye to dying relatives in hospitals.
Labour Party MP Chris Bryant said “there is visceral anger” among voters about Partygate.
Memories were revived this week by the Sunday Mirror newspaper’s publication of video showing staffers drinking and dancing at an event at Conservative Party headquarters in December 2020, when people from different households were banned from mixing indoors.