The House of Commons Privileges Committee found Boris Johnson repeatedly misled the House in answering questions. It filed a lengthy report detailing his crimes including disrespect for the whole process.
It recommended a 90-day suspension but as he resigned his seat before publication, the 10 per cent of voters needed under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, (introduced when the Liberal Democrats were in government) will not be necessary as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip quit.
Had Johnson not resigned, he wouldn’t necessarily be out. He could have hoped that the recommendation of the Privileges Committee might not have been passed by the House of Commons. This is unlikely with anti-Tory parties voting in favour even as many Tories either abstain or find an “excuse” (like PM Sunak) not to be in the house.
But as he has already quit, there will be a by-election.
The recommendation of the Privileges Committee would have to have been approved by a free vote of MPs. Not long ago, over 200 Tory MPs voted to ignore a committee recommendation and protect one of their own, Sir Owen Patterson, who had used his position for financial gain for a company employing him as a lobbyist. That was another low point for the Tories; Patterson resigned after a public outcry. More Tory sleaze.
How does all this affect Harrow?
The Conservatives locally are desperately trying to “Clean up their act”. A good example where they failed was the local election in Stratford-on-Avon after the local Tories reselected Nadhim Zahawi, the short-lived Truss Chancellor who was fined over £1m for tax irregularities. The Tories lost 2/3rds of their councillors to the Liberals who now easily control the council.
Harrow has no local elections until 2026. However, a General Election must be held in the next 18 months. Our two sitting Conservative MPs, both of whom voted to protect sleazy Owen Patterson, will be asked to explain their actions by their constituents. Doubtless Liberal Democrats will ask the question at all hustings.
In Harrow East, our local Tory MP “Honest Bob” Blackman will be criticized after his lecture to former Labour Councillors on how to deal with alleged corruption, which seems especially hypocritical in view of his well-known difficulties over travel expenses.
Whilst in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, the Tory MP will be looking nervously towards the Mid Bedfordshire by-election. We are within 7% of taking the seat. This is a closer margin thanour fellow Lib-Dems in Nadine Dorries’ constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire scored at the last general election. This is assuming Mad Nad finally goes.
Nobody will ever know how much damage this scandal has done. But if either Tory in the Harrow area loses their seat, they will regret putting party before principle.
(Philip is a member of Harrow Liberal Democrats and an expert on constitutional law who was called in to answer listeners questions on Radio 5 during the expenses scandal)