Boris Johnson will not get a fair hearing from the Cross-Party Privileges Committee because some of the MPs on it appear to ‘have predetermined their views’ on his guilt, an ally of the former PM has claimed a week before which could spell the end of Johnson’s parliamentary career.
Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, who served as a minister under Johnson, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that Harriet Harman, the Labor MP who chairs the Tory-majority committee, had previously said she believed Johnson had misled the Commons.
“I value Harriet Harman, but she tweeted in April 2022 that if [Johnson and Rishi Sunak] admit guilt, whereby she said she accepts fixed fine notice, then they also admit that they misled the House of Commons,” Burns said.
‘Boris Johnson disputes that, but it seems to me that the person chairing this committee has predetermined it and that causes me a degree of anxiety for Parliament’s reputation to handle this with integrity.’
Burns said he spoke to Johnson on Sunday afternoon. He said: “He looks forward to the opportunity to make his case known, to present it to the committee on Wednesday, to answer their questions.”
Johnson could be questioned until four a.m. Wednesday about what he knew of the lockdown-breaking rallies in and around Downing Street, and therefore whether he had lied when he told the Commons that all the rules had been followed , or if he hadn’t done it correctly. correct the record when he learned the truth.
If the committee finds that Johnson misled MPs, it could recommend a suspension of the Commons. A ban of 10 days or more could trigger a recall petition in Johnson’s constituency and lead to his expulsion from parliament. MPs will have a free vote on approving any suspension.
Johnson rehearsed for the televised hearing, with his legal team due to send the committee a document setting out his defense on Monday afternoon, which he can also release, once details such as the names of some officials are removed.
Johnson’s team told The Times on Monday that the “file” would include WhatsApp messages showing he was confident no rules had been broken, and would quote Harman’s tweet highlighted by Burns to claim that the committee was biased.
The idea that Johnson cannot get a fair hearing from the committee, despite four of its seven members being Tory MPs, is a regular refrain from Johnson’s supporters.
Stephen Greenhalgh, who was deputy mayor of London under Johnson, who later made him a peer, told Times Radio he feared “a witch hunt”, saying the four Tory members of the committee should stand down.
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who lost the Tory whip as an MP under Johnson, said such a comment “just shows that elements of the Tory party are still delusional about Mr Johnson, and they want to continue on this path, it is a question for them”.
He told Sky News: ‘But Mr Johnson will not help the Conservative Party’s electoral fortunes.