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Home » Johnson accused of trying to intimidate MPs as government lawyer calls Partygate inquiry ‘flawed and unfair’ – as it happened – The Guardian

Johnson accused of trying to intimidate MPs as government lawyer calls Partygate inquiry ‘flawed and unfair’ – as it happened – The Guardian

This live blog has now closed. You can find our latest story here
The Tory leadership campaign has now officially ended as voting closed at 5pm BST. The winner of the contest – and the next prime minister of the UK – will be announced on Monday.
Here is a round-up of the day’s top headlines:
Boris Johnson has been accused of trying to “intimidate and bully” an inquiry into claims he misled MPs over Downing Street parties, after No 10 took the highly unusual step of commissioning a senior QC to scrutinise the legal basis for the process. The opinion, by the crossbench peer David Pannick, argued that the Commons committee on privileges and standards was “proposing to adopt an unfair procedure” in examining allegations that Johnson falsely told the Commons he knew nothing about lockdown-breaking gatherings.
Mark Elliot, a professor of public law at the University of Cambridge, pointed out that much of the criticism Pannick makes of the privileges committee is inapplicable because they refer to legal standards, rather than parliamentary process.
Johnson has also been criticised for appointing a “leading crony” to help oversee the appointment of new peers to the House of Lords. The writer and journalist Harry Mount, the author of The Wit And Wisdom Of Boris Johnson, will take up the role on the House of Lords Appointments Commission from 11 September.
Sadiq Khan has described an official review into the resignation of Cressida Dick as head of the Metropolitan police as “clearly biased” after it concluded the commissioner “felt intimidated” into stepping down from her post in February. The review states Khan did not follow due process in actions which prompted her departure, and tried to push Dick into firing every officer involved in the Charing Cross scandal after the police watchdog’s findings, a claim Khan denies.
Cost of living support from the government will need to extend into 2023 to help defeat the tactics used by Vladimir Putin, according to the chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi. Such an approach is needed to send a “very clear message” to the Russian president that his strategy is not going to work, Zahawi added.
Extinction Rebellion said a group of about 50 people were involved in the “non-violent” action at the Palace of Westminster. They said three people booked on an official tour of the building glued themselves in a chain around the Speaker’s chair inside the Commons chamber, PA Media reported.
A cabinet minister and a high-ranking aide at 10 Downing Street continued to work in Boris Johnson’s government despite allegations of sexual misconduct against them, according to reports. Two women have given first-hand accounts of what they claim happened to them when one was assaulted and the other groped by political figures, both now in senior roles.
Neither of the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party has made a convincing pitch to rural voters, despite that demographic being one of the biggest sources of Tory power, the head of the UK’s biggest rural business organisation said. Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents about 30,000 landowners and rural businesses, said Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak had done too little to show how they would boost the countryside economy and deal with pressing concerns such as planning, rural broadband, and farm support.
Rishi Sunak is not “cut and dried” but probably “neck and neck” with Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race, according to one Conservative MP. Kevin Hollinrake, a supporter of the former chancellor and MP for Thirsk and Malton, told Sky News: “I’ve seen some of the polls and national polls. I think it’s quite hard for pollsters to determine who is a Conservative member and who is not because there’s not an open database.”
That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed the UK politics live blog for today. Thanks for following along. Goodnight.
At Conservative leadership hustings events over the summer Liz Truss supporters have waved placards and sported T-shirts emblazoned with “In Liz we Truss”.
But the faith of Tory party members in the likely next prime minister is far from being reflected across the UK more broadly.
When, as expected, Truss enters No 10 next week to find an in-tray spilling over with difficult issues, the lack of trust in her office will be among the knottiest to resolve.
In recent decades politicians, not least because of Tory sleaze in the 1990s and the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009, have enjoyed less than the full confidence of the public.
Trust in British democracy and the state has plummeted to new depths under Boris Johnson with his rejection of the normal conventions of government.
When he won a landslide victory in 2019 his relaxed relationship with the truth was already well known – but enough voters were willing to set that aside in return for his boosterism and Brexit promises, and because they didn’t like the alternative of Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak said he had been “humbled” to meet Conservative activists throughout the summer in a final message an hour before polls close in the Tory leadership contest.
In a statement, he said:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I have been humbled to meet so many thousands of our brilliant members and activists over the past six weeks.
This is a critical election for our country and for the future of the Conservative party, as we eye a historic fifth term in government.
We face huge challenges ahead, but also huge opportunities. I know what it takes to get through challenging times. I did it as chancellor and I will do it again as prime minister.
As the final day of voting in the Tory leadership race comes to a close, the frontrunner Liz Truss spoke of her admiration of of the party’s membership.
She will find out on Monday if she has beaten the former chancellor Rishi Sunak in her bid to win the contest and become the next British prime minister.
In a statement on Friday, she said:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}It has been fantastic meeting and speaking to thousands of members across the whole of the UK over the last six weeks. Our members make our party great, and I would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped along the way.
I believe in a brighter and better future for Britain. I have a bold plan that will grow our economy and deliver higher wages, more security for families and world-class public services. I’ll do this by cutting taxes, pushing through supply-side reform and slashing red tape that is holding businesses back.
If I am elected prime minister, I will never let anyone talk us down and I will do everything in my power to make sure our great nation succeeds.
Extinction Rebellion activists superglued themselves to the Speaker’s chair in the Commons chamber on Friday.
The climate activists said they carried out the protest to voice their support for a ‘citizens’ assembly’.
Cost of living support from the government will need to extend into 2023 to help defeat the tactics used by Vladimir Putin, according to Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.
Such an approach is needed to send a “very clear message” to the Russian president that his strategy is not going to work, Zahawi added.
Speaking at a Policy Exchange event in London, Zahawi said of forthcoming support:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}You target the help, we need to target those families, those households, who literally have no headroom at all.
Now, the £37 billion that we are midway through delivering will help so that everyone getting £400 off their energy bills will deal with about 50% of the new energy price cap rise between October and December, but that only delivers between October and December, we need to look at January and then beyond that.
Why? Because I think we need to send a very clear message to Mr Putin that this strategy is not going to work, that we are going to be resilient, we’re going to put help into households and to businesses so the targeting, I think, is the right approach.
Zahawi said there is also a need to deal with consumption, explaining:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We’re working up options for the incoming prime minister to be able to hit the ground running, to be able to make some of those decisions.
Not allowing the Commons inquiry to investigate whether Boris Johnson corrected the record over his Partygate denials would amount to a cover-up, the shadow leader of the House of Commons has said.
Thangam Debbonaire told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}This current prime minister needs to be able to show – and the investigation’s got to be free to investigate this – that he corrected the record at the earliest possible opportunity.
Otherwise, I’m afraid to say, it just looks like the sleaze and the lies and the cover-ups that people have described it as.
Asked about Johnson’s allies’ argument that he did not intentionally mislead MPs, she said the job of the cross-party select committee inquiry, which has a Tory majority and will be conducted by “very experienced parliamentarians”, is to check that.
“We can’t just take the word of allies,” she said. “This is not just a niche thing, it’s about trust, it’s about truth, I’m afraid to say it’s about a prime minister who just seems not to care that much about any of that.”
Meanwhile, the Welsh secretary, Sir Robert Buckland, denied allegations by some allies of Johnson that the Commons committee investigating his Partygate denials has deliberately chosen its terms to ensure the prime minister is found guilty.
Asked if he believed the claims, the former justice secretary told World at One:
.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}No, I don’t. As a former member of the privileges committee, I can attest to their independence, the quality of the clerks who advise them.
He said he would advise the new prime minister against “any suggestion that somehow the committee should be impeded or prevented from carrying out its inquiry”.
Mark Elliot, a professor of public law at the University of Cambridge, has pointed out that much of the criticism Pannick makes of the privileges committee is inapplicable because they refer to legal standards, rather than parliamentary process.
You can read the full thread here:
I find this opinion on the Johnson Privileges Committee matter very odd. Much of it is concerned with the fact that the Committee's process may not adhere to legal standards that are wholly inapplicable to a political, parliamentary process. /1 https://t.co/wkl86XXMvA
The opinion notes near its outset that decisions by the Committee are not subject to judicial review, claiming that if they were, a court would find against the Committee. /2 pic.twitter.com/uncbiT8Qun
However, this understates matters in crucial respects. The fact that the Committee is not subject to judicial review is no mere happenstance: it is a matter of basic, and sound, constitutional principle that proceedings are not subject to judicial oversight. /3
After a little over 1,100 days of Covid briefings and Dominic Cummings, Brexit deals and booze-filled suitcases, the lurching big dipper ride that was Boris Johnson’s prime ministership is finally drawing to a close.
Since he was forced to quit, many Conservative party members have bemoaned his resignation, and his supporters in the media have glossed over the many calamities of his premiership to declare him a “great leader”.
Here we remember (some of) the significant points of his time in Downing Street – and how the accumulation of mishaps and mistakes finally led his own party to force him out.
The Labour MP Chris Bryant has said that Boris Johnson is “trying to intimidate” the committee investigating him over Partygate, and says that Pannick’s opinion is “bizarre” and has no formal status.
You can read the Bryant’s full twitter thread below.
You would have thought that @BorisJohnson would want to clear his name in front of the Privileges Committee instead of trying to intimidate it. Lord Pannick’s bizarre ‘opinion’ has no formal status and is wrong on several counts. Firstly, he fails to mention that
Among the criticism Lord Pannick makes of the standards and privileges committee’s inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate, the report states:
The committee is proposing to apply an unfair procedure in that it says it may well not tell Johnson the identity of witnesses whose evidence may be relied on to establish a contempt of the House
The committee has failed to recognise that a fair procedure requires that Johnson should be able to be represented at a hearing before the committee by his counsel.
The committee has failed to recognise that a fair procedure also requires that Johnson should be able, through his counsel, to cross-examine any witness whose evidence is relied on to establish a contempt of the House.
You can read the full summary of the report here.
From the Guardian’s political correspondent Peter Walker:
Chris Bryant, former chair of the committee privileges committee, tells me Pannick has fundamentally misunderstood the inquiry, and that the legal opinion is an attempt by No 10 to "intimidate and bully" the committee.
The government has now published the report by Lord Pannick, which argues that the inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate is “unfair” and “fundamentally flawed”.
You can read the full report here. In one key extract it says:
“In our opinion, the Committee is proposing to adopt an approach to the substantive issues which is wrong in principle in important respects, and the Committee is also proposing to adopt an unfair procedure.”
It later says there are six ares where the inquiry is “proposing to adopt a fundamentally flawed approach”.
We will report more details shortly.

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