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Boris Johnson: UK lawmakers approve 'Partygate' report

June 19, 2023

Lawmakers in the House of Commons backed a report which said the former prime minister misled parliament regarding his rule-breaking parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson (l), former Prime Minister of Great Britain, and his wife Carrie Johnson arrive at Westminster Abbey before the coronation ceremony of King Charles III's royal wife Camilla.
Boris Johnson has been found to have misled parliament over breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules during his term in officeImage: Andrew Milligan/dpa/PA Wire/picture alliance

British lawmakers in the House of Commons on Monday endorsed a report which said former Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson lied to parliament regarding lockdown-flouting parties in his office during the pandemic.

Johnson has lashed out at the report and said he is being targeted politically.

Boris Johnson leaves Downing St.

Monday's vote followed an hourslong debate, coinciding with the former prime minister's 59th birthday. 

What happened in Parliament?

The report, released last week, recommends sanctioning Johnson for misleading Parliament, which amounts to committing "contempt" of the house. Lawmakers voted by 354 to 7.

Several Conservative party members abstained from the vote, including sitting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who skipped the debate to welcome his Swedish counterpart and attend other meetings.

"This is a matter for the House rather than the government. That's an important distinction and that is why I wouldn't want to influence anyone in advance of that vote," he told ITV. 

Johnson's predecessor as prime minister Theresa May said the vote would be "a small but important step in restoring people's trust" in parliament.

"It is important to show the public that there is not one rule for them and another for us," said the Conservative Party lawmaker.

Jacob Rees Mogg, a minister in Johnson's government, meanwhile suggested lawmakers investigating the former prime minister had "wanted to come to a particular conclusion."

What has the report revealed?

The report, prepared by the house's Privileges Committee, concluded that the former prime minister's parliamentary pass should be revoked. The pass allows even former MPs access to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons Privileges Committee is responsible for carrying out investigations into potential breaches of privilege. The committee can make recommendations on potential sanctions against MPs, but the final decision is made by the House of Commons as a whole.

The disciplinary body for lawmakers found that Johnson's actions violated the rules so much so that the committee would have recommended a 90-day suspension from Parliament.

But earlier this month, Johnson announced he was stepping down as a member of Parliament after having been informed of the committee's findings.

What was Johnson's reaction?

Johnson has slammed the report and has accused the committee of mounting a "witch hunt" and acting like a "kangaroo court."

The former prime minister has insisted that he did not deliberately lie to the House of Commons about the parties, which took place at Downing Street in 2020 and 2021 under his leadership.

Though embarassing, the report does not prevent Johnson from running for Parliament in the future.

What is the Partygate scandal?

In May 2022, an internal investigation following media reports of multiple gatherings at government buildings during the global pandemic revealed the gatherings should never have taken place.

All the gatherings took place between 2020 and 2021 — when the UK was under strict lockdown rules that were put in place by Johnson's government.

After the media reports first emerged in December 2021, Johnson repeatedly assured lawmakers that he and his staff had always followed the rules.

That turned out to be wrong, Johnson later acknowledged in testimony before Parliament in March this year. But he said it was "what I honestly believed at the time."

string of scandals, including the illegal lockdown parties, engulfed his time as premier and eventually pushed him to step down, prompted by several resignations from within his party.

The rise and fall of UK PM Boris Johnson

rmt/wd (AP, AFP)