Former prime minister Boris Johnson could face further contempt of Parliament charges after launching a “narcissistic attack” on MPs investigating him over his partygate assurances.
Sir Chris Bryant, the chairman of the Privileges Committee who recused himself from the inquiry into Mr Johnson and was replaced by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman, said the former Tory leader’s criticisms were “in effect an attack on the whole” of the House of Commons.
Mr Johnson accused the Commons partygate inquiry of conducting a “witch hunt” and compared the process to a “kangaroo court” as he announced he was immediately quitting the green benches on Friday.
He said “most members of the committee – especially the chair – had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence” as he argued that they should have stepped back from conducting the probe.
Sir Chris said the comments could land Mr Johnson in further hot water with the committee, which is due to meet on Monday to discuss the timetable for publishing its report.
While the committee’s findings have yet to be released, Sir Chris said Mr Johnson had “effectively leaked” that it had concluded he had lied to Parliament when he said Covid rules had been followed in Downing Street, despite there being alcohol-fuelled lockdown parties in No 10 during the pandemic.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Chris said: “They may want to conclude that there has been an additional contempt of Parliament by the way that Boris Johnson has behaved in the last 24 hours and in the attacks on the committee, which are in effect an attack on the whole House.
“I don’t think anybody can now be in any doubt that Boris Johnson holds Parliament in contempt.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, branded it “absolute rubbish” for Mr Johnson to claim the committee’s partygate inquiry had not been fairly conducted.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, she said the committee was “highly respected” and pointed to it having a Conservative majority.
The panel is made up of four Tories — Sir Bernard Jenkin, Sir Charles Walker, Alberto Costa and Andy Carter — two Labour MPs, including Ms Harman, and one SNP representative.
Ms Rayner said: “Their report is also subject to a vote in the Commons where the Tories currently have a 66-seat majority, so this idea that he hasn’t been given a fair hearing is absolutely for the birds.
“It is absolute rubbish and tosh, as he would say. It is just another way of Boris Johnson not accepting responsibility for his actions.”
Sir Chris also expressed difficulty in comprehending how Mr Johnson could suggest MPs investigating him had been motivated by a desire to reverse Brexit.
In his resignation statement, the former Uxbridge and South Ruislip said: “I am not alone in thinking that there is a witch hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.
“My removal is the necessary first step, and I believe there has been a concerted attempt to bring it about.”
Sir Chris said: “How he can possibly believe that Sir Bernard Jenkin, an arch Brexiteer with whom I’ve rowed about Brexit many times, how he could possibly conceive of him in that light? I think is difficult to understand.”