London, UK | Xinhua | British lawmakers on Thursday approved an investigation into Prime Minister Boris Johnson over claims he misled the parliament about rules-busting parties in Downing Street during lockdown, casting further doubts on his political future.
A Labour-led motion called for the Committee of Privileges to examine allegations that the Conservative prime minister misled the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament, when he denied lockdown rules were broken in Downing Street.
Downing Street had sought to delay the vote on the motion, but made a last-minute U-turn following opposition from Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs). The change demonstrates the discontent among Tory MPs over the “Partygate” scandal, which has dogged Johnson’s government and threatened his hold on power.
Last week, Johnson and his wife Carrie, as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were fined by the Metropolitan Police (Met) for attending a rules-breaking event at Downing Street in 2020 to mark the prime minister’s birthday. Johnson became Britain’s first serving prime minister to be penalized for breaking the law.
The Met’s investigation into lockdown parties at Downing Street is still underway, and more than 50 fines have been issued so far.
Speaking during the parliamentary debate, Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson had “stood at that dispatch box and point blank denied rule-breaking took place, when it did.” He added that the motion tabled by Labour sought to uphold “the simple principle that honesty, integrity and telling the truth matter” in British politics.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “The public won’t stomach another Conservative stitch-up that drags our democracy through the mud just to protect one of their own.”
In a major blow to Johnson, Steve Baker, an influential Conservative minister, has called on Johnson to quit for flouting the COVID-19 rules he himself imposed on the country.
“The prime minister now should be long gone,” Baker told the Commons on Thursday.
Johnson, who is on a two-day trip to India, didn’t attend the debate. However, he told the media that he had “no concerns” about the privileges committee investigation.
“If the opposition wants to focus on this and talk about it a lot more that’s fine,” he said, adding that he “wanted to focus on what matters for the future of the country.”
The privileges committee probe will not start until the two separate investigations into “Partygate” carried out by the Met and senior civil servant Sue Gray have been concluded. In the UK, lying to parliament is an offence that makes resignation obligatory.