Michael Gove has defended the Privileges Committee investigating partygate after Boris Johnson described the group of MPs as a “kangaroo court”.
The committee is set to this week finalise its report into whether Mr Johnson deliberately misled parliament over COVID gatherings in Downing Street and at Chequers. Mr Johnson resigned as an MP last week after being sent a draft of the report and launched stinging criticism of the probe.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “I wouldn’t describe the committee as a kangaroo court. Not at all.”
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He added: “The critical thing I think is it’s a properly constituted committee of the House of Commons with distinguished and experienced MPs on.”
The sometimes ally, sometimes enemy of Mr Johnson said he will need to wait and read the report before he can pass judgement on Mr Johnson and his actions.
The panel of MPs is chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman and made up of four Conservatives, two Labour MPs and one SNP member,
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In his letter, Mr Johnson claimed the committee had “wilfully chosen to ignore the truth because from the outset their purpose has not been to discover the truth, or genuinely to understand what was in my mind when I spoke in the Commons”.
“Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.”
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If the committee finds Mr Johnson did deliberately mislead MPs, they could have recommended Mr Johnson be suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days.
This would have left the ex-prime minister facing a recall petition, where his constituents get to choose if there is a by-election – although this is all now academic due to Mr Johnson’s resignation.
Any suspension would have required a vote by MPs as a whole, and it looks like Mr Johnson would have struggled for support even among the party he was leading this time last year.
Mr Johnson said in his resignation letter that he was “very sad” to be leaving the Commons – “at least for now”.
But some in the Conservative Party find it unlikely he will be returning anytime soon.
Tobias Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, told Sky News: “He won’t be standing as an MP… I don’t think any time soon.
“I mean, how could any association, Conservative association, accept him after what he’s now done, given the fight that we have to try and win the next general election?”