Boris Johnson served as Britain's Prime Minister during the worst days of the pandemic. He resigned last year. Photo / AP
Former Prime Minister will lose his Parliamentary pass, another harsh penalty for parties who broke the lockdown during the pandemic.
Ten days after Boris Johnson abruptly left Britain's Parliament his former colleagues delivered
A stinging rebuke was delivered to the former Prime Minister, with a majority of the parliament ratifying the report which concluded that he intentionally misled legislators about the lockdown-breaking party held at Downing Street during pandemic.
The vote showed a Conservative Party that is still divided over Johnson's polarising leadership. The report was drafted by a powerful committee of parliament, but rather than taking a position, many Conservative legislators abstained. Only seven Conservative members of Parliament rejected it.
This allowed the House of Commons to accept it without Conservatives needing to publicly support or oppose Johnson. Johnson remains popular among some Conservatives, but is despised by many voters because of the double standard that he tolerated in regard to pandemic restrictions.
Rishi Sunak - whose resignation from his post as chancellor at the Exchequer in the summer of last year was a major factor in Johnson's removal from Downing Street - did not attend the debate. This drew criticism from the Labour Party, who said he had lacked courage to publicly condemn his predecessor. Sunak's office claimed that he had other commitments, including a Downing Street Meeting with his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson.
Johnson was found guilty, despite the torturous deliberations. The verdict ruled out -- at least temporarily -- any return to power of a controversial figure who spent three years as Prime Minister in Downing Street, which were marked by a landslide victory in 2019, but also scandals that continued for months afterward.
After five hours of debate, the lawmakers voted to approve the report 354-7, which was a huge victory for Johnson's opponents. There are 650 Conservative members of the House of Commons. However, many of them chose not to participate in the proceedings to avoid upsetting party activists loyal to Johnson or the voters who dislike him.
In a debate characterized by sadness, anger, and even a little humour at times, politicians from both parties stood up to condemn Johnson's duplicity, and to ask Parliament to endorse the Report, in order to rebuild trust in British society. A small group of Tories defended Johnson. They were a shrinking band of loyalists to a figure that once held a firm grip on the House of Commons.
Theresa May - Johnson's predecessor in the role of prime minister - said that she would vote for the report, because its conclusions "strike the core of the bond between Parliament and the Public which underpins our working".
May's comment was interpreted by some as a criticism of Sunak for his absence.
Harriet Harman of the Labour Party, who presided over the investigation of the Privileges committee, the House of Commons body that produced the report said: "Ministers must tell the truth; otherwise, we can't do our jobs." She added, "Mr Johnson's dishonesty would have contaminated our entire democracy if it was left unchecked." Jess Phillips of Labour, among others, referred to Johnson as lying, a term that is normally not allowed in the chamber, but was permitted here because of the report's conclusions.
Johnson resigned from his seat in the House of Commons on June 9, after seeing a draft of the investigation's findings. He slammed the committee, calling it a "kangaroo Court," despite the fact that a majority of members were drawn from his party.
The committee recommended revoking the parliamentary pass of the man and, if he had not quit already, recommending a 90-day suspension.
Practically, Johnson's acceptance of the Commons report will only have a small impact. If he loses his pass, he will need to be accompanied by a member in order to enter the Parliament buildings. But symbolically it is a resounding rejection of Johnson's former peers.
"The truth is unquestionable." Thangam Debbonaire said that despite the malice and ignorance, the truth will always come out.
"And he fails in both."
Johnson's supporters questioned the committee about its ability to know if Johnson made misleading statements on purpose and said that it proposed harsh punishments.
Lia Nici is a Conservative legislator who was a parliamentary assistant to Johnson during his time as prime minister. She said that the report didn't provide convincing evidence that Johnson intentionally misled Parliament. She said that Johnson's advisers had told him that no party violated the social distancing guidelines.
Johnson, who felt that his support was not very strong, urged those who sympathized with him to vote in favor of the report.
Johnson, who celebrated his 59th birthday on Monday, did not attend Parliament, and he ended this chapter of his life with less drama than during his turbulent tenure at Downing Street.
Johnson has made no secret about his desire to reclaim his former position as Prime Minister, but this would not be possible without a seat in parliament. The report's approval by the Parliament does not prevent Johnson from running for office again. However, most analysts believe he will be unlikely to run in the next general elections, expected to take place in the second half next year.
Tourists snapped a selfie in London last week, while sitting on the opposite bank of the Thames from Parliament and next to the National Covid Memorial Wall. The wall is dedicated to those killed during the coronavirus epidemic. Photo /AP
Opinion polls indicate that he's not popular with voters, even though a number of Conservative Party supporters were attracted to his pro-Brexit, optimistic rhetoric.
It is a serious rule violation to intentionally mislead Parliament. This is because lawmakers claim that without accurate information, they cannot hold the government accountable, which is one of their primary functions.
The Privileges Committee reported that Johnson deliberately misled legislators when he told them, following the scandal, that Downing Street had always adhered to the social distancing rule.
Johnson claimed that he had given his assurances in good faith when he appeared before the committee this year. The lawmakers determined that Johnson had knowledge of certain rule violations, failed to investigate some allegations, and had repeatedly 'contempt' Parliament.
Sunak has had to deal with a lot of political pressure because the scandal's fallout is always in the spotlight. Sunak faces a series of difficult tests to determine the popularity of his government in elections that will replace Johnson and other colleagues who represented their constituencies.
Nigel Adams, an ally of Johnson's, resigned when he failed to gain a place in the House of Lords. Nadine Dories, another ally, also in the same position, had announced she would resign but never did.
David Warburton, another Conservative lawmaker who was suspended after allegations of sexual misconduct, has resigned. Warburton said he had not been given a fair hearing when a parliamentary watchdog investigated the allegations against him.
Sunak has been further troubled by the police's announcement that they will examine a video recently published by the Daily Mirror. The video appeared to show the Conservative Party's campaign team dancing and drinking at a party during the pandemic restrictions. The police had previously said that an earlier photo published of the same event was not enough evidence to bring charges.
Johnson nominated Shaun Bailey for the House of Lords as part of the honours list he presented to mark his resignation. Bailey had unsuccessfully campaigned to become London's mayor.
Bailey left the room before the video was made, but Ben Mallet who received a lower honour on the list does appear. Both men have been urged to lose their honours by opposition politicians.
This article was originally published in
The New York Times
Written by Mark Landler and Stephen Castle