Michael Gove has dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim of being a victim of a “kangaroo court”, while declining to say whether he will accept the privileges committee’s findings on the former PM and “partygate”
The levelling up housing and communities secretary also suggested this morning that the government is now attempting to move on from the drama caused by the former premier’s resignation as an MP. “The government is getting on with the most important things”, he told Times Radio.
It comes as the panel of MPs examining claims that Boris Johnson lied to parliament over Downing Street gatherings during lockdown is meeting to conclude its inquiry. MPs are predicting he will face strong condemnation of his conduct.
Mr Johnson sent shockwaves through Westminster on Friday by announcing his decision to quit as an MP.
In his resignation statement, he accused the privileges committee of “bias”, labelling its investigation into whether he misled the commons a “witch hunt”. He said MPs were trying “to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result”.
Asked if he agreed with Mr Johnson that the committee was a “kangaroo court”, Mr Gove said that that committee chaired by Harriett Harman “is properly constituted … with distinguished and experienced MPs on it”.
He told Sky News: “Neither of us have yet read the report so we will have to wait and see and pass judgement on it later. But no, I wouldn’t describe the committee as a kangaroo court, not at all.”
The privileges committee of seven MPs — with a Conservative majority and chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman — hit back at Mr Johnson’s allegations on Friday. It issued a statement saying: “The committee has followed the procedures and the mandate of the House at all times and will continue to do so.
It added: “Mr Johnson has departed from the processes of the House and has impugned the integrity of the House by his statement. The committee will meet on Monday to conclude its inquiry and to publish its report promptly.”
Asked if he will accept whatever the committee’s findings are, Mr Gove told Times Radio: “None of us have seen the report yet. It is a properly constituted committee of Parliament, Parliament voted to establish it, set up its remit, the people on it are distinguished parliamentarians.
“But unless and until we see the report then I think it would be premature for me to pass any judgement on it.”
Senior MPs have called for Boris Johnson to be blocked from standing again for the House of Commons as the Conservative party attempts to draw a line under the drama caused by the former premier’s resignation.
Tobias Ellwood, a former minister and the Conservative chair of the defence select committee, has told Sky News that most MPs will vote in favour of what the privileges committee recommends as a sanction for Boris Johnson.
While he said “there was huge adulation and love for Boris Johnson”, Mr Ellwood added: “That adulation has now turned to massive frustration and indeed disappointment as he deserts the political battlefield”.
“Everybody’s just astonished he’s walking away in this way, causing so much damage in his wake”, he added.
He said he hopes the party can now “draw a line” under the Johnson era.
Asked if Mr Johnson could make a return to parliament, Mr Ellwood said: “How could any Conservative association accept him after what he’s now done, given the fight we have to try and win the next general election?”.