Boris Johnson allies ran campaign to undermine privileges committee, report says

Nadine Dorries and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg were both named in the report which accused them of putting “improper pressure” on the Privileges Committee.

Allies of Boris Johnson ran a “unprecedented and co-ordinated” campaign to undermine the Parliamentary committee which examined allegations that he lied to MPs over partygate.

The Privileges Committee has criticised senior MPs including Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dame Priti Patel, along with peers including Lord Goldsmith in a move that will raise further issues for Rishi Sunak.

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Published early this month, the report saw Mr Johnson flee from Parliament before he was pushed, in apparent protest at its recommendation that he should face a lengthy suspension for misleading the Commons with his denials of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

A series of MPs were criticised for attacking the committee to defend Boris Johnson.A series of MPs were criticised for attacking the committee to defend Boris Johnson.
A series of MPs were criticised for attacking the committee to defend Boris Johnson.

His supporters frequently attacked the Privileges Committee as a “witch hunt” and “kangaroo court” – with Mr Johnson found to be complicit in the campaign against the panel investigating him.

In a special report, the Privileges Committee named some of those involved and criticised their actions.

It said: “Those Members did not choose to engage through any proper process such as the submission of letters or evidence to our inquiry, but by attacking the members of the committee, in order to influence their judgment.

"The committee is particularly concerned about attacks mounted by experienced colleagues, including a serving minister of the Crown, a former leader of the House and a former secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

“Pressure was applied particularly to Conservative members of the committee”.

“This had the clear intention to drive those members off the committee and so to frustrate the intention of the House that the inquiry should be carried out, or to prevent the inquiry coming to a conclusion which the critics did not want.”

Their aim was to “influence the outcome of the inquiry”, “impede the work of the committee by inducing members to resign from it”, “discredit the committee’s conclusions if those conclusions were not what they wanted” and “discredit the Committee as a whole”, it said.

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There were also “sustained attempts to undermine and challenge the impartiality” of the committee’s Labour chairwoman, Harriet Harman.

“This unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure did not affect the conduct or outcome of our inquiry. However, it had significant personal impact on individual members and raised significant security concerns.”

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Four separate remarks by Ms Dorries are referred to in the Privileges Committee report, with MPs also highlighting comments made by Sir Jacob on two occasions.

The committee also objected to comments by Ms Patel on GB News in March 2023, in which she said: “How can a handful of Members of Parliament in a committee, you know, really be that objective in light of some of the individual comments that have been made?

“I don’t want to name people, but, you know, it is a fact, the lack of transparency – the lack of accountability… I think there is a culture of collusion, quite frankly, involved here.”

Brendan Clarke-Smith said he was “shocked and disappointed” to be named in the Privileges Committee report.

Committee members pointed to a tweet where he said: “Tonight we saw the end result of a parliamentary witch-hunt which would put a banana republic to shame. It is the people of this country who elect and decide on their MPs. It’s called democracy and we used to value it here. Sadly this no longer appears to be the case.”

The committee said it will be for the House of Commons to consider “what further action, if any, to take” in respect of the MPs named in the report.



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