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Boris Johnson’s Privileges Committee Verdict Exposes Rishi Sunak’s Complicity

The Prime Minister is deeply complicit in every part of Boris Johnson’s disgraceful period at the top of British politics

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. Photo: Gavin Rodgers / Alamy

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The Privileges Committee’s findings on whether Boris Johnson was in contempt of Parliament over Partygate could not be more damning.

The committee, which was made up of a majority of Conservative MPs, found that Johnson deliberately and repeatedly misled Parliament, while also being complicit in a campaign of intimidation against the committee itself.

Previously unseen testimony from a Downing Street whistleblower published by the committee today also reveals there was a culture of not having “any rules” in the building during the pandemic, with officials advised to merely behave themselves while in front of security cameras.

Johnson’s subsequent attempts to justify these Covid rule breaches, and his attempts to lie about it, are rejected wholesale by the committee. Overall they find that his contemptuous behaviour towards Parliament is without any precedent for a Prime Minister. 

Their report, which ultimately finds him in “serious contempt” of Parliament and recommends that he should be banned from holding a Parliamentary pass, means that Johnson is now an utterly disgraced figure. Any lingering hopes of an imminent resurrection for his political career must surely now be over. 

Yet, while Government ministers are now urging us to “move on” from Johnson and his behaviour, it is worth remembering quite how complicit the Conservative party and Sunak himself have been in it.

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To understand this we don’t need to go back as far as the events of Partygate, which went entirely unremarked upon at the time by the current Prime Minister. We don’t even need to go back as far as Johnson’s subsequent attempts to lie about it in Parliament, which Sunak also allowed to pass without any comment.

All we need to do is go back to last Friday, when the Prime Minister approved Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.

This list includes multiple figures confirmed to have been involved in Covid rule breaches, as well as multiple senior allies and aides who joined Johnson in contemptuously impugning the Privileges Committee.

Among them are senior officials who organised the parties, spin doctors who misled the press about what happened at those parties and senior politicians who joined Johnson in seeking to impugn and intimidate the committee from finding against him.

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Yet despite pledging to lead a Government committed to “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” the Prime Minister waved through all of the names on Johnson’s list without a single objection. And he did so despite knowing exactly who these people were and what they had done.

Asked on Thursday if the Prime Minister would retract Johnson’s honours list, his spokesman replied that it was a “longstanding convention” that Johnson should get his chosen honours and “that’s not going to change”.

Because the truth is that the story of Boris Johnson’s disgraceful period at the top of British politics is indivisibly intertwined with Sunak’s own.

From the moment Sunak publicly endorsed him for Prime Minister, to his long tenure at the top of a Government defined by scandal and dishonesty, to his decision to fund Johnson’s £245,000 legal fees out of the public purse, to his refusal to block his resignation honours, Sunak has been complicit in Johnson’s behaviour from beginning to end.

With the single exception of his own belated resignation last summer, which precipitated his attempt to take Johnson’s job, Sunak has consistently empowered and enabled the former Prime Minister

So while Sunak and his allies may now seek to distance him from the disgraceful reality of Johnson and his Government, the truth is that he was firmly by his side all along.

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