British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an investigation by the House of Commons committee into alleged lies in connection with the Partygate scandal. A corresponding motion by the Labor opposition was waved through by MPs without a vote after several hours of debate.
For Johnson, this is a painful defeat. That morning he had expressed the hope that his group would force the decision to be postponed. But apparently his own deputies thwarted his plans. Some of his party colleagues even called for his resignation. Even arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker said he would vote for the inquiry and called on Johnson to step down. “The prime minister should be gone by now,” he said.
Johnson, who was visiting India on Thursday, immediately rejected this. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said in an interview with Sky News, in which he showed clear nervousness.
After reports of illegal lockdown parties in London’s Downing Street during the pandemic, Johnson had repeatedly protested in Parliament that the rules had always been followed. It later emerged that the prime minister himself had attended several of the meetings in question. In the meantime, he even had to pay a fine imposed by the police because he let his employees celebrate his birthday with a cake. More could follow.
Johnson now takes the position that he did not realize that there were celebrations. In the UK, lying to Parliament is considered a reason for members of government to resign. If the committee finds that Johnson lied, it would be extremely sensitive. Before the investigation begins, however, the end of the police investigation should first be awaited.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of abusing the culture of debate in the lower house. According to the rules, MPs are not allowed to accuse each other of lying. Exceptionally, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle temporarily lifted this rule for Thursday’s debate. “The Prime Minister has stood before this Chamber and said things that are not true, counting on not being accused of lying because that is not allowed,” Starmer said during the debate.
Public opinion seems to have long since judged Johnson’s sincerity. Nearly 80 percent of British voters believe Johnson lied. This is the result of a survey by the opinion research institute Yougov on behalf of Times Radio, which was published on Thursday. Accordingly, only eight percent of voters believe the conservative head of government. Even among supporters of Johnson’s Tories, a clear majority of 61 percent are convinced that he was untrue. 2,079 voting-age Britons were surveyed.