Majority of Northamptonshire MPs remain silent on Partygate vote
Only South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom and Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer vote to uphold the damning privileges committee report
By Sarah Ward
Northamptonshire’s Conservative MPs have remained tight-lipped about the damning enquiry which found former prime minister Boris Johnson guilty of lying to parliament.
Last night the House of Commons voted through the report of the privileges committee into the conduct of Boris Johnson, which ruled that he had deliberately misled parliament on several occasions about the illegal parties that had happened in Downing street during lockdown.
It also found him to be in contempt of parliament not only due to his behaviour while prime minister but while under investigation as he breached confidentiality by talking about the findings before they were published.
The privileges committee, which was chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman, had recommended that Johnson be suspended from 90 days and also be refused a members pass. However, before the report was made public, Johnson resigned as an MP.
Only MP for South Northamptonshire Andrea Leadsom responded to questions by NN Journal yesterday about how she would vote. She said she would be voting for the report and on Channel 4 news yesterday she said it was not right that MPs had questioned the privilege committee’s legitimacy.
MP for Wellingborough Peter Bone, on an appearance on the Jeremy Vine show yesterday did say he would abstain from the vote. In the end 354 MPs voted for the vote, 7 against, with a large number not turning up to vote either way.
According to The Guardian, Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer was the only Northants MP who joined Leadsom in voting for the report. Bone, Chris Heaton Harris (Daventry), Tom Pursglove (Corby), Michael Ellis (Northampton North) and Philip Hollobone (Kettering) all abstained.
The report, which was published last week, set out in the strongest terms how importantly it viewed Johnson’s dishonest actions during 2021 when it came to light that while the rest of the country was in lockdown and obeying rules about not meeting up with others, Johnson had been attending parties at Downing Street.
The report said:
“This inquiry goes to the very heart of our democracy. Misleading the House is not a technical issue, but a matter of great importance. Our democracy is based on people electing Members of Parliament not just to enable a government to be formed and supported but to scrutinise legislation and hold the Executive to account for its actions. Our democracy depends on MPs being able to trust that what Ministers tell them in the House of Commons is the truth. If Ministers cannot be trusted to tell the truth, the House cannot do its job and the confidence of the public in our democracy is undermined. When a Minister makes an honest mistake and then corrects it, that is democracy working as it should.”
In its findings it said:
“We have concluded above that in deliberately misleading the House Mr Johnson committed a serious contempt. The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the Prime Minister, the most senior member of the government. There is no precedent for a Prime Minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House. He misled the House on an issue of the greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly.”
The committee also said there will be a further special report about what it referred to as a ‘sustained attempt, seemingly coordinated’ by other politicians to discredit the privileges committee’s credibility. The role of the cross-party committee is to investigate breaches of parliamentary privilege (the devise that ensures MPs can speak freely in parliament).
“The Committee is concerned that if these behaviours go unchallenged, it will be impossible for the House to establish such a Committee to conduct sensitive and important inquiries in the future. The House must have a Committee to defend its rights and privileges, and it must protect Members of the House doing that duty from formal or informal attack or undermining designed to deter and prevent them from doing that duty.”
It is unclear whether the behaviour of any Northamptonshire MPs will be examined in the special report.
Northamptonshire MPs relationship with Boris Johnson
MP for Wellingborough and Rushden Peter Bone, Northern Ireland Secretary and Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris and Northampton North MP Michael Ellis have all been major supporters of Boris Johnson in recent years, with Ellis and Heaton Harris having served in his cabinet.
In the days of the ludicrous ministerial reshuffle last summer, when Johnson was fighting for his premiership, Peter Bone was also briefly made Deputy Speaker of the House, although lost it when Liz Truss replaced Johnson.
Throughout the entire ‘partygate’ episode Bone constantly backed Johnson, saying he had not done anything wrong and only this Spring declaring he had not knowingly misled parliament.
In January last year he regularly insisted on national television that people in his constituency were still supportive of Johnson as PM. However a vox pop poll by ourselves in the traditional Tory heartland of Oundle found differently.
Heaton-Harris was also widely considered to be behind the unsuccessful campaign to get Johnson back into Number 10 instead of current PM Rishi Sunak last Autumn.
Former attorney general Ellis, consistently defended Johnson in parliament. While the heat was on Johnson in December 2021 Ellis said:
“The Prime Minister has been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no covid rules were broken.
“I also know the Prime Minister and I have confidence in the integrity of the Prime Minister. I have known the Prime Minister for many years. The Prime Minister is a man of honour and integrity, and he presented to this House his position yesterday.
“I do know the Prime Minister and have done for many years. He is a friend of mine and I know him to be a man of honour and integrity who is working hard in the interests of the people of this country.”
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, Lucy Rigby, said Ellis should now amend his comments on Johnson’s character after the committee found he had repeatedly lied.
“Given the privileges committee’s clear findings that Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament about his lockdown parties, it’s only right that his denier in chief, Michael Ellis, apologises for his repeated defences of what was clearly completely indefensible.”
“There are plenty of people in Northampton who found Michael Ellis’ defence of Mr Johnson’s conduct highly offensive given we were being told not to see loved ones, even when those loved ones were dying.
“Mr Ellis told the House of Commons that "the Prime Minister is a man of honour and integrity", that "there is absolutely no indication" that the Prime Minister misled Parliament; and that Mr Johnson's comments made to the House were in “good faith." Given that the cross-party Privileges Committee has shown those statements Mr Ellis made to Parliament to be untrue, Mr Ellis should also consider correcting the record.”
We have contacted Michael Ellis for a response.