Harriet Harman has been elected Chair of the Commons Standards Committee, replacing Chris Bryant after his appointment to the Shadow Cabinet. Liam Byrne has also been elected chair of the Business and Trade Committee (despite his two-day bullying suspension last year), with Cat Smith becoming Petitions Committee chair. Here’s the vote breakdown:
Harman filled in for Bryant to lead the Kangaroo Court earlier this year. Look how that turned out…
As if it were in any doubt, Harriet Harman has once again revealed the political nature of the Priviliges Committee’s campaign against Boris Johnson. Speaking to Iain Dale at Edinburgh Fringe, the marsupial mastermind first defended her investigation – denying it was a Kangaroo Court – right before describing how they would prepare for sessions by mocking the former Prime Minister. The show trial’s rehearsals featured “absolutely hilarious” impressions of Boris Johnson, then a sitting MP, by a Commons Clerk. Harriet continued:
“We had two whole days of rehearsals of it, with one of the clerks being Boris Johnson, which was absolutely hilarious because he was ruffling his hair and roleplaying. And normally the clerks are very staid, sober, rational, logical people; but he really took to it.”
Seems a little roo-de…
In one chippy section of the Privileges Committee’s report they claim that
“…from the outset of this inquiry there has been a sustained attempt, seemingly co-ordinated, to undermine the Committee’s credibility and, more worryingly, that of those Members serving on it. The Committee is concerned that if these behaviours go unchallenged, it will be impossible or 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 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. We will be making a Special Report separately to the House dealing with these matters.”
It has been our openly stated opinion from the outset that this was a Kangaroo Court and that Harriet Harman was not a fit person to chair the committee (Harman Unfit for Quasi-Judicial Privileges Committee Chairmanship) for the reasons we outlined, as per her tweets she had already made up her mind:
If Bernard Jenkin thinks we are “undermining his credibility” by attacking his hypocrisy over his own law-breaking attendance at a party with drinks and cake during lockdown, it is for him to quite simply explain in this Special Report why the standards he piously demanded of Boris Johnson don’t apply to him. The matter is not irrelevant, it goes to the heart of his credibility and questions his authority to sit in judgement. Since Guido understands valid complaints have or are going to be made to the parliamentary authorities he will presumably get an opportunity to explain himself under oath. His current vow of silence will have to come to an end.
Guido suspects this Special Report will restrict its censure to parliamentarians who questioned the credibility of the “Kangaroo Court”. They won’t want to be seen to be attacking the freedom of the press. However, if they want to come after Guido, bring it on!
As of this morning, Bernard Jenkin is still refusing to talk after Guido’s exclusive yesterday afternoon. He was spotted – ashen faced – hanging around at the Speaker’s office end of the library corridor in Parliament last night while on the phone. Whoever he was speaking to, it wasn’t the media…
Guido hears other MPs have since written to the Privileges Committee over Jenkin’s conduct following Nadine Dorries’ letter last night. At least one MP has also reportedly written to Parliamentary sleaze watchdog Daniel Greenberg, which could lead to an investigation if accepted. Boris himself has written directly to Kangaroo Court chair Harriet Harman, demanding to know if any other Committee inquisitors have broken the rules…
Speaking of the Kangaroo Court, its 33,000 word report is expected at around 9 a.m., with Boris’s response published soon after. The report, which is longer than Of Mice and Men, will find Boris committed “multiple” contempts of Parliament, and would have recommended a Commons suspension of longer than 10 days. Guido looks forward to reading Bernard’s analysis. When Guido asked his fellow Tory MPs how they felt about the news last night, one simply said “we are all laughing”…
Chief Partygate investigator-turned Labour Chief of Staff Sue Gray was in personal contact with Privileges Committee chair Harriet Harman while Gray was still a civil servant. According to Sky News, Harman made frequent, direct contact with Gray in the early stages of the Kangaroo Court’s Partygate probe, claiming privately “I just speak to Sue”. A Privileges Committee spokesperson insists this is all above board:
“The chair with the full knowledge of the committee has had regular contact with a number of ministers and officials in the Cabinet Office to discuss matters such as the provision of documents to the committee, the identity of potential witnesses and the welfare of civil servants who may be affected by the inquiry.”
They also stressed “the privileges committee is not relying on evidence gathered by Sue Gray“. Just like how she ‘wasn’t’ working on the Partygate probe after opening talks with Labour – until it was revealed she was, after all…
Starmer claimed Richard Sharp being appointed to the BBC was corrupt because he was helpful to then PM Boris on an unrelated matter when the role was being discussed. Gray being appointed to Starmer’s office however is not corrupt despite when the role was being discussed her being helpful to the man who wants to be PM in getting rid of his most potent campaigning opponent. Completely different.
As the Privileges Committee finally released Boris Johnson’s 50-page written evidence submission, Guido was struck by one claim from the Committee. In their press release, they state “Mr Johnson’s written submission contains no new documentary evidence”. Sources close to Johnson categorically refute this. Guido is happy to take a look at the evidence and let co-conspirators be the judge.
The dossier includes previously unpublished WhatsApp messages sent on the evening of December 7, 2021. On page 37, the dossier includes a text from a senior adviser to Boris saying, ““I think you can say ‘I’ve been assured there was no party and no rules were broken’”. The committee did not publish this evidence previously.
Page 36 of the submission includes a WhatsApp message from Boris, asking his team “is there a way we could get the truth about this party out there?”. It hardly looks like a cover up. The committee did not publish this evidence previously.
There were further testimonies included on page 42 of the dossier. This includes a witness saying “it is my honest belief that Mr Johnson did not deliberately or negligently mislead the House” and another testifying that multiple civil servants assured Boris that rules were followed. The committee did not publish this evidence previously.
Boris makes further defences in his dossier. He criticises the Committee’s fourth report for selectively quoting a witness – omitting the claim that Boris didn’t drink and “was the most sensible person there”. Boris also doesn’t hold back from blasting “the discredited” Dominic Cummings:
“It is no secret that Dominic Cummings bears an animus towards me, having publicly stated on multiple occasions that he wanted to do everything that he could to remove me “from power”. He cannot be treated as a credible witness”.
The Committee needs to explain why they kept back from publishing evidence that supported the central contention that Boris was advised by officials that all was compliant...