‘Absolutely certain’ Boris Johnson will quit if committee finds he misled parliament, says standards chief

‘If he’s suspended from the House, he’s out. That’s it’: PM is not out of trouble, says Chris Bryant

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 26 May 2022 09:04
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Boris Johnson Will Quit If Committee Finds He Misled Parliament, Says Standards Chief

The chair of parliament’s privileges committee has said it is “absolutely certain” that Boris Johnson will be forced from office if the cross-party panel finds he has misled the Commons.

Mr Johnson has resisted calls from Labour and some of his own MPs to step down following Wednesday’s release of the Sue Gray report, which detailed drunken parties at 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown.

But he now faces an inquiry by the Commons privileges committee into whether he knowingly misled when he repeatedly told parliament that there were no parties.

And chair Chris Bryant said that he will be forced to quit if the committee finds he lied.

Labour MP Mr Bryant, who has stepped aside from the inquiry because of his own vocal criticisms of the prime minister, said the committee could trigger a recall ballot in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency by recommending his suspension from the Commons.

“They can force him to quit,” he told Sky News. ”I'm absolutely certain that if the privileges committee decides that the prime minister has misled parliament and sends a report to the House to that effect, Boris Johnson may still try to cling on, but I would have brought that at that point every self-respecting member of the House of Commons would vote for whatever suspension is recommended by the committee.

“And if he's suspended from the House, he's out. That's it.”

Mr Bryant said that the committee could take as long as four months to reach its conclusions.

And he insisted that its in-built Conservative majority did not necessarily mean it would clear the PM of lying.

”There are four Conservative members on the privileges committee and I respect them,” he said. “I have absolutely no questions about them. They will all want to do a very proper job.

“And if that committee - which has a Conservative majority on it - comes to the conclusion that the prime minister has lied to parliament, I’m absolutely certain that the prime minister will leave office, and probably leave parliament.”

A recall petition can be triggered if the Commons votes for the suspension of an MP on the recommendation of the House’s privileges committee. A re-run election will be held if the petition is signed by more than 10 per cent of constituents - around 7,000 people in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The suspended MP is allowed to stand in the election to try to hold onto the seat.

Mr Bryant said that Tory MPs may not vote to preserve a prime minister who they increasingly see as an electoral liability for their party.

“I think there’s quite a lot of people in the Labour Party who have now decided that actually for the Labour Party, and for the next general election, let’s keep Boris Johnson,” he said. “I think a lot of voters in the country have made their mind up about a Conservative Party that keeps Boris Johnson - the culprit and the liar - as their leader.

“Two Conservatives I bumped into in the lift yesterday on the way to a vote said to me: ‘Look, we’ve lost the next general election because Tory colleagues won’t act against him, even though they’ve seen it plain as a pikestaff.”

Despite Mr Johnson’s plea for the country to “move on” from Partygate, Mr Bryant predicted that the fallout from the scandal would “go on and on and on”, preventing the PM from focusing on issues like the Ukraine war and the cost of living.

“All of these were unforced errors which stem from his personality,” he said. “They’ll all happen again.”

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