Skip to main content

Johnson comes out swinging amid damning Partygate report

Houses of Parliament
By Robyn Evans
15 June 2023
Public Affairs

Following months of investigation, the highly anticipated report by MPs into whether Boris Johnson lied to Parliament about Covid lockdown parties in Downing Street was finally published today.

The former Prime Minister dramatically stood down as an MP last week after receiving an advance copy of the report, accusing the investigation of amounting to a witch hunt. Whilst his resignation indicated the report would be a tough read for Mr Johnson, the extent of the committee’s condemnation could not have been more damning.  

In its scathing 30,000-word assessment, the Privileges Committee found Boris Johnson had committed repeated offences with his Partygate denials and concluded that he should have been suspended from the House for 90 days. It says he deliberately misled the House, the Committee, impugned the Committee and was complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the Committee.

The Committee dealt a further blow following Mr Johnson’s resignation by recommending that he should not be entitled to a former Member’s pass. The report’s sanctions will be voted on by MPs next Monday.

Coming out on the attack, Boris Johnson has issued a 1,700-word rebuttal to the Committee. No stranger to florid prose, his stinging response is anything but measured, arguably showing a lack of remorse for his actions. For Mr Johnson, who had so wanted to be remembered as a great Prime Minister, the biggest punishment from the report will undoubtedly be the damage it does to his reputation and whether this spells an end to his chances of returning to frontline politics. 

It is hard to see how a politician found to have deliberately misled Parliament can recover. The fact that there is a Conservative majority on the Privileges Committee demonstrates how Mr Johnson had gradually become less popular amongst many in his parliamentary party.

This dwindling fan base will make it very difficult for Mr Johnson to come back, having lost the confidence of so many of his colleagues, not just by virtue of today’s report but the vote of confidence amongst his own MPs.

Support for Mr Johnson had been draining for quite some time. We’ll be able to quantify just how much support he has left on the Conservative ranks and which MPs are still prepared to back him next week as the Committee report goes to a debate and vote in the Commons. There are unlikely to be that many left, with just a handful of Tory MPs openly criticising the report so far, all of them being Johnson loyalists. 

Disgraced and discredited, a Boris bounce back is unlikely this side of a general election. Mr Johnson will be seen as persona non grata amongst the Conservative leadership and his political future will depend upon a catastrophic election defeat for the Tories.

In the meantime, it is hard to imagine Mr Johnson fading into obscurity. We’ve seen how he can generate headlines and the chances are he will continue to do so in the run up to the next general election. Bad news for Rishi Sunak who is keen to finally draw a line under Partygate.