'Boris Johnson can't come back from this, can he?'

Bernard Ponsonby asks if the publication of the partygate report means Johnson's reputation has been tarnished for good.

The first thought on skim reading the Partygate report into Boris Johnson was to reach for my Thesaurus.  

Somehow wow and gobsmacked seemed inadequate for the most excoriating Parliamentary report ever written about a British prime minister. 

In the long indictment listing his character flaws and personality traits, this report screams loudest and adds toe curling observations to a long history charting Johnson’s casual relationship with the truth. 

He has been damned by opponents over the years, but they would, wouldn’t they?  

He has been damned by some Tory grandees, but they could have scores to settle, couldn’t they?  

He has been damned too by those who worked with him, everyone from Sir Max Hastings to Dominic Cummings. But could their motivations be rooted in base personal enmity? 

Boris Johnson has always relied on the force of personality to distract and bury charges made against him. 

Bojo the clown could laugh his way out of trouble with a ruffle of his unkempt hair or a guffaw shot from the pit of his belly.  

When in the cross hairs of trouble, the entertainer was never too far away, hoping that a performance better suited to the stage than the despatch box would lead the great British public to chortle rather than judge. 

His Trumpian resignation from the House of Commons late last week signalled that the report was going to be bad. 

He thundered about a kangaroo court, presided over by hypocrites who had it in for him.  

He denied the charges, attacked his accusers and created a diversionary story by resigning his seat in what was clearly a move to undermine the current Prime Minister. 

And just to prove the point that revenge is a dish best served in threes, two of his supporters signalled that they too would resign to create a triple by election headache for Rishi Sunak. 

Nadine Dorries was one of those who would resign with immediate effect. It now transpires she doesn’t know what immediate actually means, so she will hang around to ensure that three by-elections are held on two different days, all meant to compound the Prime Minister’s agony. 

But back to the report. 

Johnson argued that the report was a charade that twisted the truth. It should of course be noted that the majority of members of the Privileges Committee are Conservative MPs. 

He says these MPs conducted themselves in an anti-democratic way and adds for good measure that the report is ‘the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination that is beneath contempt’. 

His allies took to Twitter to condemn the report as ‘spiteful, vindictive and overreaching’. 

It is now a certainty that those on the Tory benches still loyal to the former Prime Minister will come to his defence and in the process make life as uncomfortable as possible for the current incumbent of number 10. 

All of this will further destabilise the government and buttress the chaos narrative which in part helps explain Labour’s large poll lead over the Conservatives. 

The issue at the heart of this report is really a rather simple one. Did he intentionally lie to Parliament about breaching lockdown rules? 

Now in his shifting defence to these charges, he has argued variously that he didn’t before admitting that he did but that the lies were not intentional. 

Johnson’s notorious bad grasp of detail has not served him well during this affair which is why the MPs had little difficulty in finding him to be a liar. 

The Committee found that he did deliberately misled the House of Commons over lockdown parties at Downing Street. They say that it would have recommended suspending him from the Commons for a period of 90 days. 

That sanction if agreed by the House could have triggered a by election, hence the decision of the former PM to resign rather than face the ignominy of being pushed. 

Two members of the Committee actually wanted to expel him from the House altogether in a move that would have led to an automatic by-election but that was voted down by the Conservative members of the Committee. 

So why has this report been quite so damning and why has the instinctive culture to ‘protect one’s own’ been ignored by the Tory MPs? 

The view has been taken that his behaviour in relation to the elected chamber of the British Parliament, the representatives of the people, is so bad that only a report written in such terms can send out a message that truth to Parliament is bigger than forgiving the transgressions of a Prime Minister. 

If MPs can’t make a stand for truth, what is the point of Parliament?  

If the holder of the office of Prime Minister is allowed to go unchecked in the matter of lying to Parliament, then why should anyone in the country have faith in the institution and those who serve in it? 

Conservative MPs have decided that the integrity of the democratic process is so fundamental to public confidence in the House of Commons that is well worth trashing what is left of Johnson’s reputation. 

This report will go down in the annals of Parliamentary history as the most critical of a Prime Minister by his peers. It is unlikely to be topped between now and the end of time. 

And for Johnson, so condemned by an avalanche of articles about his character and personality, this report stands tallest for it damns without qualification. 

Boris Johnson is a man who has defied political gravity before. Surely not even he can come back from this. 

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