‘There is a culture of collusion’: Priti Patel hits out at MPs who are set to grill Boris Johnson over Partygate after it was found almost all of them have previously criticised him
- Ex-Home Secretary has claimed the Partygate inquiry will damage democracy
- Committee will hold televised evidence session with Mr Johnson on Wednesday
Peiti Patel has called into question the objectivity of MPs who will grill Boris Johnson over Partygate next week – because almost all of them have previously criticised him.
The former home secretary warned of a ‘culture of collusion’ and claimed the inquiry, branded a witch-hunt by allies of the ex-prime minister, will damage democracy.
Her comments came as a Daily Mail audit found that members of the seven-strong Privileges Committee have between them made more than 20 negative remarks about the former PM, in interviews and online.
Its Labour chairman Harriet Harman has already stated that Mr Johnson’s acceptance of a police fine for breaching Covid laws means he admits misleading the Commons – the very issue her inquiry is meant to be considering on the basis of the evidence.
Even Conservatives on the committee, which will finally hold its televised evidence session with Mr Johnson on Wednesday, accused him of ‘mortifying’ behaviour over Partygate.
The former home secretary warned of a ‘culture of collusion’ and claimed the inquiry, branded a witch-hunt by allies of the ex-prime minister, will damage democracy
Mr Johnson’s long-standing ally Miss Patel said the Partygate inquiry put ‘our democracy in a very, very bad light’.
‘How can a handful of Members of Parliament and committee really be that objective in light of some of the individual comments that have been made?
‘I don’t want to name people but it is a fact,’ she told GB News. ‘The lack of transparency, the lack of accountability, I think there is a culture of collusion involved here quite frankly.’
The usual chairman of the committee, Labour’s Chris Bryant, stepped aside from the probe when it was launched last April because he had repeatedly branded Mr Johnson a liar.
Yet his replacement, former New Labour minister Miss Harman, has been equally damning.
On the day Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak were fined by police for attending a brief birthday party in the Cabinet room, she wrote on Twitter: ‘PM & CX [Chancellor of the Exchequer] complete disregard for rules vital to protect health of others. Unspeakable. Disgraceful.’
In a further tweet, she appeared to pre-judge the case she is now in charge of, writing: ‘If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons. Or are they going to challenge?’
A Daily Mail audit found that members of the seven-strong Privileges Committee have between them made more than 20 negative remarks about the former PM, in interviews and online
The other Labour MP on the committee, Yvonne Fovargue, wrote online ahead of the 2019 election: ‘Boris Johnson tells disgraceful lies. Here are just ten of them.’
The sole SNP member of the committee, Allan Dorans, was once an officer in the Metropolitan Police which fined Mr Johnson.
In a newsletter he wrote that people in his constituency were ‘understandably furious that while they were following the Covid rules and making personal sacrifices, Boris Johnson was breaking them by holding illegal Downing Street parties’.
One of the four Tories on the committee, Andy Carter, declared in July when Mr Johnson announced he would step down: ‘I believe this is the right thing to do, and is in the nation’s best interests.’
Alberto Costa, another Conservative on the inquiry, made a series of pointed remarks about Mr Johnson’s government when last summer’s leadership contest began.
The most senior Tory on the committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin, was once reported to have said it would be a ‘disaster’ if Mr Johnson joined the Leave campaign ahead of the Brexit vote, calling him ‘dishonest’.
And the final member of the committee, Sir Charles Walker, declared as long ago as last February that he would ‘applaud’ if the PM quit.
Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said the committee must be allowed to get on with its work ‘without fear or favour’.
A committee spokesman said: ‘The members of the Privileges Committee are Members of Parliament who have been appointed to this role by the House.
‘The decision to carry out this inquiry was not taken by the Privileges Committee but by the House of Commons as a whole.’
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