The big takeout from yesterday’s (Monday, June 18, 2023) vote on the Partygate report is that Rishi Sunak is a weaker leader than anyone thought he was.
As prime minister, it was his duty to support the report because it represents a duty of Parliament, duly done.
But he didn’t even bother to turn up, let alone vote in support of the Privileges Committee’s damning indictment of Boris Johnson’s Partygate lies – most probably because he didn’t want to anger Johnson’s remaining supporters.
Former prime minister Theresa May is widely believed to have criticised Sunak’s spinelessness in her speech:
Theresa May – "The privileges committee report matters, this debate matters & this vote matters. They matter because they strike at the heart of the bond of trust & respect between the public & Parliament, that underpin the workings of this place & our democracy" pic.twitter.com/8b4APmWxEs
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) June 19, 2023
The implication is that Sunak’s own claim to be restoring the integrity of the government were just a lot of hot air if he could not even bring himself to support a report giving just one example of how that integrity had been lost.
And how many supporters did Johnson have?
Some might say only seven – the Tory MPs who actually voted against the report’s findings. They were Desmond Swayne, Joy Morrisey, Karl McCartney, Adam Holloway, Heather Wheeler, Nick Fletcher and Bill Cash.
Already some net-based wags have been having fun at their – and Johnson’s – expense:
Exclusive photos of the 7 MPs who opposed the privilege committee report into Boris Johnson. pic.twitter.com/JGZqDcKQZb
— Amanda (@Pandamoanimum) June 19, 2023
Some might say Johnson’s support base actually totalled 232 – as 225 Tories either abstained or stayed away altogether, like Sunak. But it is just as easy to say they were all cowards like Sunak.
We do know that 118 Tories voted to support the report and its one remaining recommendation – that Johnson be denied a “former member’s pass” to parts of the Parliamentary estate, essentially banishing him from the Palace of Westminster.
In all, 354 MPs voted to support the report – 54 per cent of the total number of MPs.
Wild claims that the Partygate Inquiry was somehow rigged, or carried out improperly, must now be laid to rest because Parliament has spoken and its voice is sovereign.
Johnson did lie, repeatedly and knowingly, and that’s all there is to it.
Now it seems likely the focus will alter, most likely moving on to examine Johnson’s resignation honours list and whether it has any validity, considering the prime minister who wrote it now stands disgraced and several of the people named in it are also facing allegations about their own behaviour.
Johnson himself may also linger in public life for some time to come – not least because his testimony to the Covid-19 Inquiry has yet to become public – and is already controversial.
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