MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Boris Johnson has already paid a heavy price… so axe this vengeful tribunal

How can we explain the continuing determination of MPs to go ahead with a tribunal empowered to humiliate and damage Boris Johnson for misdeeds to which he has already confessed and for which he has suffered the great penalty of being forced from the highest office in Government?

The Commons Committee of Privileges has extraordinary powers to grill Mr Johnson in public and even (incredibly and amazingly) to force him to quit as an MP. It is due to open its proceedings in early September when Parliament returns.

The official explanation is that the Committee is investigating the broad question of whether the House of Commons was misled. They say that what they call ‘political developments’ are ‘of no relevance to that’. 

The ‘developments’ they brush aside so lightly are a semi-revolution including the spectacular resignation of the Head of Government and the current Tory leadership election. 

The Commons Committee of Privileges has extraordinary powers to grill Mr Johnson in public and even (incredibly and amazingly) to force him to quit as an MP. It is due to open its proceedings in early September when Parliament returns

But the Committee insist woodenly that this is of no matter, saying: ‘The House charged the Committee with this task and we are obliged to continue with it. Unlike other Committees, we do not set our own agenda.’ Perhaps. But viewed from outside, it is a bit like the purser of the Titanic continuing an inquiry into a lost set of keys to the captain’s drinks cupboard long after everyone involved, and the ship itself, have plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Committee seem also to have forgotten the normal rules of due process. When they say they will seek to establish whether the Prime Minister ‘misled the House’, they are making a profound change in their remit. 

They were originally set to investigate whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled the Commons, a much more serious and wholly distinct charge. All adults (and most children) know perfectly well the huge difference between inadvertently misleading someone without meaning to, and doing it knowingly and deliberately. The two offences are as far from each other as the east is from the west.

There is even more to worry the fair-minded citizen. The Mail on Sunday reports today that the Committee which will judge the PM contains several MPs who have clearly identified with Mr Johnson’s critics, some very strongly indeed. Would this not rightfully rule them out of such a probe?

In a fascinating and creditable contrast, the Labour MP Chris Bryant stepped aside as the Committee’s chairman because he had made strong public criticisms of Mr Johnson and, as he put it, it was ‘important that the House be seen to proceed fairly without any imputation of unfairness and that the whole House have confidence in the Committee of Privileges’ proceedings’.

How right he was. What a pity it is that others have not followed his example.

The Mail on Sunday thinks the removal of Boris Johnson was an act of epic folly and self-harm by the Tory Party. But that is now a closed issue. We urge MPs, and especially Tories who have even more reason to know better, to step down from this futile, misconceived tribunal and so bring it to an end

You might have thought that the Prime Minister’s enemies would have been content to have driven him from Downing Street in spite of his huge electoral mandate, his great popularity and his long list of solid achievements in office.

You might have thought that his clear admission of wrongdoing and his acceptance of legal penalties would be sufficient to satisfy any reasonable thirst for justice. Those enemies, seemingly obsessed with kicking Boris Johnson when he is down, might do well to remind themselves of the maxim set out by that greatest of all Parliamentarians, Sir Winston Churchill: ‘In victory, magnanimity.’ This pursuit looks much more like vengeful spite than magnanimity.

The Mail on Sunday thinks the removal of Boris Johnson was an act of epic folly and self-harm by the Tory Party. But that is now a closed issue. We urge MPs, and especially Tories who have even more reason to know better, to step down from this futile, misconceived tribunal and so bring it to an end.

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