On April 21st, the House of Commons approved a motion calling for Boris Johnson to be investigated by the parliamentary Privileges Committee. As soon as the Metropolitan Police completes its investigation into mid-lockdown Downing Street parties—a probe which has already seen the prime minister fined and may lead to further penalties being issued—this committee will undertake an enquiry into whether Johnson misled Parliament by denying #Partygate allegations last year.
If anything, the prospect of an internal parliamentary probe could be more damaging to the prime minister’s survival than the ongoing police investigation. This is because political convention dictates that being found to have misled the House is an offence worthy of resignation. The Ministerial Code states: “Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation” (Section 1.3[c]). Much will naturally depend upon whether the upcoming enquiry rules that Johnson was deliberately dishonest, as opposed to just inadvertently so, with MPs.
It is no surprise that many on the opposition benches have demanded Boris Johnson’s resignation. After all, the likes of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons head of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford tend to make these demands every other week. More newsworthy is the growing list of Conservatives arguing that their leader—to quote the Tory member for Wycombe and a formerly loyal ally of Johnson Steve Baker—“should be long gone.”
Mr. Baker, a believing Christian, had previously urged forgiveness for the Prime Minister. However, he changed his mind after Johnson’s reportedly bullish, unapologetic address to Conservative MPs at the 1922 Committee on Tuesday, April 19th. This style of address, far closer to “an election rally speech” than a heartfelt plea for contrition in the words of one attendee, was violently at odds with Johnson’s public apology in Parliament that same day.
As a result, Mr. Baker seems to have concluded that the prime minister merely feigned an apologetic posture for public consumption and should resign. The key question is how many Conservative MPs will be tempted to join Baker over the coming weeks, with the police investigation ongoing and an additional parliamentary probe on its way.