Senior Tory likens criticism of Partygate inquiry to ‘terrorist campaign’

·2 min read

A senior Conservative MP sitting on the inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over the Partygate scandal has denounced the “terrorist campaign” to discredit the committee examining the prime minister’s conduct.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, a member of the privileges committee, said the inquiry into Johnson would be continuing, despite a barrage of complaints from Johnson’s political and media allies about the investigation.

Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary and a friend of Johnson, has described the investigation as a “witch-hunt”, while Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister and another friend of the prime minister, has said it is “clearly rigged”. The Daily Mail has also run articles accusing the committee of being prejudiced against Johnson and packed with his enemies.

Jenkin, one of four Conservatives on the committee, said its work would continue unless the House of Commons withdraws its support for the inquiry.

“If anybody is unhappy with that they should write to the committee with their arguments and we will be compelled to consider them, but I don’t think the committee can respond to what amounts to a sort of publicity campaign designed to discredit the committee.

“The House of Commons has charged with us with this responsibility. It’s our duty to carry out this inquiry. And we will carry out this inquiry for as long as the House of Commons wishes us to do,” he told the BBC’s World at One.

Jenkin added: “This is all laid out in our report. If people wish to criticise it, please write to the committee, don’t just conduct a sort of terrorist campaign to try and discredit the committee because the privileges committee is as how we self-regulate our affairs.”

The Guardian reported at the weekend that Conservatives MPs want to do a deal with Johnson for him to quit parliament and in return axe the inquiry into whether he misled them over Partygate.

The investigation, chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, is expected to drag on for months. A tranche of evidence has been demanded by the committee, including Johnson’s diaries covering the 12 days on which parties were held in Westminster in defiance of Covid rules, as well as emails, WhatsApp messages, photographs, internal notes and a list of deleted documents. However, as of Monday, this had not been provided to the inquiry, a No 10 spokesperson said.

If Johnson is found to have misled parliament, he could face suspension from the Commons and a recall petition, which, if signed by 10% of his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituents, would trigger a byelection.