MPs have agreed to investigate Boris Johnson over whether he deliberately misled parliament over the ‘partygate’ scandal following another dramatic day in the Commons.
Senior Tories called on the prime minister to resign during a five hour debate that began with Downing Street withdrawing an attempt to force Conservative MPs to delay a parliamentary investigation.
A Labour party motion eventually passed without a vote when the deputy speaker of the Commons moved to pass the motion and not a single voice on Conservative benches opposed it.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, repeatedly called Johnson a liar during the debate with Commons Speaker Sir Lyndsay Hoyle allowing the word because the nature of the motion was on whether the PM misled parliament.
“There is one thing that needs to be said … The prime minister of the United Kingdom is a liar,” said Blackford. “He lied to avoid getting caught. And once he got caught, he lied again.”
The gig’s up for PM, says Baker
“The prime minister should be long gone,” said Steve Baker – deputy leader of the Tories’ Covid Recovery Group and key member of the ERG (European Research Group). “Really, the prime minister should just know, the gig’s up.”
Baker, who played a key role in Johnson’s election as Tory leader, told the Commons: “The reason that he is not long gone because removing a sitting prime minister is an extremely grave matter … I’ve been tempted to forgive. The possibility of that has gone.”
Chair of the Commons’ constitutional affairs committee William Wragg, the Tory MP for Hazel Grove, told MPs he has submitted a no-confidence letter to the 1922 Committee, saying it is “utterly depressing to be asked to defend the indefensible”.
Wragg said Johnson is “no longer fit to govern” and added: ““I cannot reconcile myself to the prime minister’s continued leadership of our country and the Conservative party.”
Wragg told colleagues: “We must stop delegating and delaying our political judgement. We each only have our own limited and imperfect integrity. We can’t keep spending it on others who we cannot be sure will not let us down.”
Mark Harper was the only Conservative to call for Johnson to resign just two days ago when Johnson gave a “humble” apology in the Commons for getting fined by the police for law-breaking.
‘Partygate’ photos may be published when MPs investigate Boris Johnson
The motion means Boris Johnson will be investigated by the Commons’ privileges committee over the PM’s statement to MPs in December that “the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times”.
Photographs of lockdown parties in Downing Street, gathered during Sue Gray’s investigation into the illegal events, could be published as part of the MPs’ inquiry.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed they will not provide any updates on ‘partygate’ fines until after the local elections on May 5. They have so far issued more than 50 fines for illegal events at Downing Street during lockdown as their investigation continues.
Johnson – the first prime minister in British history to be fined by police – is expected to receive more fixed penalty notices for his lockdown law-breaking.
Johnson causes outrage in India
While MPs debated on whether to investigate the PM, Johnson was being garlanded with flowers in India, at the start of his two day trade trip.
Johnson has caused outrage in India for visiting a JCB factory while their machines are being used to bulldoze mainly Muslim settlements in an area of Delhi that has been hit by communal violence.
Amnesty India tweeted that the Municipality Corporation of Delhi was using JCB bulldozers to raze Muslim owned shops yesterday adding, the “UK prime minister’s inauguration of a JCB factory in Gujurat is not only ignorant but his silence on the incident is deafening.
“As Indian authorities clamp down on human rights daily, the UK government must not remain a mute bystander. It must bring human rights to the discussion table. India cannot wait another day for justice.”
On his visit to the JCB factory – whose chairman is Tory donor Lord Anthony Bamford – Johnson declared it a “living, breathing incarnation of the umbilicus between the UK and India”.
He added: “This is a world-leading factory – 600,000 diggers a year coming from India, exported from India to 110 countries with British technology.”