It seems the Conservative government has found yet another piece of important information about Boris Johnson that it wants to hide. That’s right: Boris Johnson.
It concerns the way Johnson’s close friend, the Russian son-of-a-spy Evgeny Lebedev, was ennobled (given a place in the House of Lords).
Parliament voted to instruct the government that it must provide all information on how this happened, by April 28.
But the government has ignored this instruction from the UK’s sovereign institution.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis has argued that he could not give out information where it was “not in the public interest to do so” and the government would need more time to deal with “all the necessary considerations”.
Funny, that. The instruction was given at the end of March so ministers have had a month to sort out any public interest issues. That’s plenty of time.
Also, we all know that the substantive issue is whether Boris Johnson interfered to override concerns about Lebedev by the security services. There’s absolutely no public interest issue around that.
In fact, it seems to This Writer that “Save Big Dog” is the only issue here.
Let’s recap the situation, from This Site’s previous article:
The Guardian revealed back in 2020 that Boris Johnson overruled concerns voiced by the security services in order to give Lebedev a peerage:
Two days before Johnson met Lebedev in March [he did this on March 19, right after telling us all to stay in our homes because of Covid-19, so this happened on March 17], the House of Lords appointments commission (Holac), which scrutinises all nominations, wrote to the prime minister. It is understood to have expressed concerns about Lebedev’s proposed peerage and asked Downing Street to reconsider.
The commission, made up of cross-party peers, carries out “propriety checks” on candidates. It does not have the power of veto. But it can suggest that a party come up with an alternative, which is what is understood to have happened in Lebedev’s case.
Peers were apparently alarmed following a confidential briefing from the UK security services. They told the commission Lebedev was viewed as a potential security risk because of his father, Alexander Lebedev, a one-time Moscow spy. During the late cold war period, Lebedev Sr worked undercover at the Soviet embassy in London. His real employer was KGB foreign intelligence.
Johnson ignored the concerns and Lebedev became a Lord.
Labour leader Keir Starmer called for Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee to review all the reports on Lord Lebedev that Holac saw, after Russians in the UK came under suspicion in the wake of the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Lebedev himself has supported publication of the material, saying, “I have nothing to hide.”
But Downing Street insisted that “all peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission” – an assertion that failed to acknowledge that Holac can’t veto an appointment, which always remains within the gift of the prime minister.
And Johnson himself has denied overruling the concerns expressed by the security services.
If the documents are published and show that Johnson did indeed ignore concerns raised by the security services, then he has lied in his capacity as prime minister. If he uttered those words in Parliament, then he will have broken the Ministerial Code and his resignation will be required.
And the irony is that any security risk posed by Lebedev is tiny in any case – because Lords are not shown “classified” documents.
It seems clear that the Tory government is hiding something, and it seems clear that the only thing they have to hide is interference by Boris Johnson in UK security concerns.
Ellis has promised to publish the necessary information “promptly” on May 10, when Parliament reconvenes.
This will be after the local elections, and I wonder whether the delay is motivated by the possibility that it will influence voters against supporting the Tories. But then, why not just say, “This may affect the outcome of an election”?
Or would that be an admission of Johnson’s guilt?
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