In a sensational verdict, a cross-party group of MPs said they’d have recommended a 90-day suspension had he not already quit the Commons to spite their sanction.
The former prime minister should still suffer the humiliation of being stripped of his Commons pass, the privileges committee ruled.
Mr Johnson called their conclusion “deranged” and “the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.
It came as:
- The report found there was “no precedent” for the scale of the lies as Mr Johnson misled parliament in five different ways
- Mr Johnson’s allies threatened a Commons revolt against the “vindictive” report
- No 10 rejected calls to axe Mr Johnson’s honours list or strip him of his annual £115,000 allowance
- A No 10 official revealed that Covid compliance was “a pantomime” and that “4pm wine-time Fridays” had continued during lockdown
- The ex-PM could be found guilty of further contempt over 16 gatherings still being looked at by police
The privileges committee rejected Mr Johnson’s claim that senior officials had advised him to tell the Commons in December 2021 that Covid rules and guidance had been followed. In fact, a senior aide had warned him against it.
Some of Mr Johnson’s denials were “so disingenuous that they were by their very nature deliberate attempts to mislead”, the committee said.
MPs also considered Mr Johnson’s tirade as he quit as an MP, in which he called the committee a “kangaroo court”, to be a further instance of contempt, pushing up his recommended suspension to 90 days – nearly twice as long as Liz Truss spent in office as prime minister.
Mr Johnson dismissed their findings as “complete tripe”. Calling it a “dreadful day for democracy”, he took aim at the Labour committee chair, saying the “terrible truth is that it is not I who has twisted the truth to suit my purposes – it is Harriet Harman and her committee”.
Nadine Dorries and a small group of fellow Johnson allies vowed to vote against the “vindicative” report – and warned that those who endorse it could be “given the boot” by angry grassroots Tory members.
But allies of Rishi Sunak told The Independent that Ms Dorries was “off her rocker” and urged colleagues to “show backbone” when the time came to vote on whether to approve the recommendations of the cross-party report.
Many Conservatives are expected to be absent rather than risk the ire of their constituents, but the free vote is expected to pass with the support of Labour and the SNP.
Senior Tories said Mr Johnson’s political career was now “finished”, with defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood remarking that support among the Tory base was “changing before our very eyes” into “disappointment and anger”.
Erstwhile deputy leader of the Conservatives Michael Heseltine said Mr Johnson had been shown to have “told a pack of lies”, while former attorney general Dominic Grieve said “I hope he’s gone for good.”
Max Hastings, once Mr Johnson’s boss at The Daily Telegraph, said the former PM was doing “what the dog does against the lamp post”.
Labour urged Mr Sunak to make sure Mr Johnson “pays back every penny” of the taxpayer-funded legal support, while the Liberal Democrats called on Mr Sunak to strip Mr Johnson of the £115,000 annual allowance available to former prime ministers.
Mr Johnson is now also facing calls to stand down from the Privy Council, a select group of MPs and other figures that advises the monarch.
Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant told The Independent: “He’s a disgraced former prime minister. You really wouldn’t normally want a disgraced former minister carrying on in the Privy Council.”
No 10 said there are no plans to tear up Mr Johnson’s honours list, or to ask him to pay back taxpayer-funded legal support. Mr Sunak’s spokesperson also made clear that Mr Johnson would not lose access to the £115,000 annual funding provided to former prime ministers.
Downing Street also rejected claims by Ms Dorries that members of the committee were offered inducements, such as “gongs” or safe seats, to reach their conclusion.
Ms Dorries said that Tory MPs who vote to approve the report might face deselection. “Any Conservative MP who would vote for this report is fundamentally not a Conservative and will be held to account by members and the public,” she said. “Deselections may follow. It’s serious.”
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said the report findings were “fundamentally flawed”, while another Johnson ally, Sir James Duddridge, said: “Why not go the full way, put Boris, in the stocks and providing rotten food to throw ... at him?”
Former MEP David Campbell Bannerman, chair of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, said Mr Johnson should appeal the findings via the European Court of Human Rights.
The committee report also laid bare the culture of No 10 during its Covid-era gatherings. In additional evidence passed to the group, one Downing Street official said staff were warned to be “mindful” of cameras but that compliance was “a pantomime” – revealing that social distancing and mask-wearing were not enforced, and that “wine-time Fridays” continued.
Mr Johnson was “unable to explain” why he considered his wife Carrie Johnson and the couple’s interior designer “absolutely necessary participants in a work-related meeting” when they attended the June 2020 birthday party, the committee said.
The former PM had claimed that he felt the leaving party for the former No 10 director of communications Lee Cain was necessary for staff morale. But the committee said morale did not provide “a licence for Mr Johnson’s conveniently flexible interpretation of the rules”.
The report also warned Mr Johnson that he could be found guilty of further contempt over a “statement of truth” he provided in reference to 16 events that took place at Chequers, after a dossier of possible rule-breaches was handed to police.
The committee also warned supporters of Mr Johnson that it intended to make a “special report” to the Commons regarding what it called a sustained attempt to “undermine” the credibility of its members.
The report revealed that the committee had split over the question of whether Mr Johnson should be permanently expelled from the Commons. Allan Dorans of the SNP and Yvonne Fovargue of Labour backed such a ban. But the four Tory members of the committee – Sir Bernard Jenkin, Sir Charles Walker, Andy Carter and Alberto Costa – opposed it.
Mr Johnson resigned on Friday, pre-empting the report and triggering a 20 July by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.
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