The Commons privileges committee report into the conduct of Boris Johnson is completely damning. All the kerfuffle about whether the committee was justified in devising a new intermediate category of mendacity defined as ‘recklessly misleading parliament’ turns out to be irrelevant.
The entire seven-strong committee, including the four Tory members on it, have found that Johnson deliberately misled parliament on multiple fronts. Johnson’s dissembling and purveying of falsehoods while prime minister is judged so serious that, had the blond bombshell hung around to take his punishment, the committee’s recommendation would have been a suspension from the Commons ‘long enough to engage the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act’.
He spectacularly departed from the Commons on Friday immediately after he saw a confidential draft of the report – denouncing the committee as a ‘kangaroo court’ as he went. This can now be seen as a cunning pre-emptive strike designed to ensure that most of his remaining cult followers keep the faith.
But the committee has not taken this ruse well. It said it views it as containing ‘further contempts’ and says it would have recommended a suspension of 90 days in part because of these further attempts ‘to undermine the parliamentary process’.
Its core finding is that Johnson had ‘personal knowledge’ of lockdown-breaching gatherings in Downing Street. The Committee found he withheld this from the Commons when repeatedly giving false assurances that rules and guidance had been followed at all times.
Those of us who have been prepared to weigh Johnson’s penchant for bluster and slapdashery in the balance alongside his many talents and merits – rather than regarding it as an altogether disabling trait – must now make a forced choice.