The House of Commons is revered the world over – and especially in India – as “the Mother of parliaments” but in some ways it is proving itself to be a singularly nasty place.
It was bad enough that Boris Johnson lashed out against the privileges committee of the Commons and called it a “kangaroo court” when it ruled earlier this month that the former prime minister had deliberately misled parliament. Boris has been forced to quit parliament and even been stripped of his security pass. He has also been found guilty of breaking ministerial rules by taking a job as a “£1m” columnist with the Daily Mail without clearing it with the appropriate parliamentary authorities.
The committee on Thursday published a second scathing report, this time naming and shaming seven members of the Commons and three peers from the House of Lords who had used unacceptable methods to undermine its work.
Those found guilty included Priti Patel, who was home secretary when Boris was prime minister but has been ignored by Rishi Sunak.
Ignoring the fact that the privileges committee is non-partisan and is elected by the whole House of Commons, Priti rubbished its standing by saying: “How can a handful of Members of Parliament in a Committee, you know, really be that objective in light of some of the individual comments that have been made. I don’t want to name people, but you know, it is a fact, the lack of transparency—the lack of accountability... I think there is a culture of collusion quite frankly involved here.”
The committee also named Jemima Goldsmith’s younger brother, Zac Goldsmith, a Tory peer who is a foreign office minister in Rishi’s government. When he lost his Commons seat in the 2019 general election, Boris gifted him a peerage.
Zac thanked Boris by retweeting a tweet calling the committee’s inquiry a witch hunt and kangaroo court and stating: “Exactly this. There was only ever going to be one outcome and the evidence was totally irrelevant to it.”
But the worst offender is the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a former culture secretary under Boris, who mounted the most vicious personal attacks on Rishi during last year’s Tory leadership contests.
She threatened the four Conservative members on the privileges committee by saying: “We also need to keep a close eye on the careers of the Conservative MPs who sat on that committee. Do they suddenly find themselves on chicken runs into safe seats? Gongs? Were promises made? We need to know if they were. Justice has to be seen to be done at all levels of this process.”
She also claimed that “expert legal opinion shows that the inquiry was a biased, Kafkaesque witchhunt – it should now be halted before it does any more damage”.
Another Boris cheerleader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who held several cabinet posts under the former PM, was asked whether he, too, thought the committee was a kangaroo court and replied: “I think it makes kangaroo courts look respectable.”
The committee’s report was accepted 354 votes to seven in a Commons vote.
The committee has now asked the Commons to vote again, accepting its second report censuring the seven MPs and three peers. It said those named had put “unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure” on the committee and triggered “significant security concerns” because of their attacks.
The committee also pointed out: “Pressure was applied particularly to Conservative members of the Committee. This had the clear intention to drive those members off the Committee and so to frustrate the intention of the House that the inquiry should be carried out, or to prevent the inquiry coming to a conclusion which the critics did not want. There were also sustained attempts to undermine and challenge the impartiality of the Chair (Labour MP Harriet Harman), who had been appointed to the Committee by unanimous decision of the House.”