SNP brands Boris Johnson ‘a liar’ but fail in bid to censure PM

The party accused Johnson of presiding over ‘scandal after scandal’ and urged Tory MPs to join opposition parties in criticising his behaviour.

SNP brands Boris Johnson ‘a liar’ but fail in bid to censure PM Tom Nicholson via PA Wire
The SNP accused Boris Johnson of ‘orchestrating much’ of the ‘sleaze and corruption’ linked to his Government.

Boris Johnson has survived a bid to reduce his salary and censure him over his conduct, amid claims he has “demonstrated himself to be a liar”.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Prime Minister of presiding over “scandal after scandal” and urged Conservative MPs to join opposition parties in criticising Johnson’s behaviour.

Several SNP MPs made allegations about Johnson’s relationship with the truth as their party tabled a motion accusing him of “frequently violating” the sixth principle of public life – honesty.

Blackford’s motion also criticised Johnson for his handling of the sleaze row, giving peerages to Conservative Party donors and said his ministerial salary should be reduced by £41,567 per year.

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But after a tetchy three-hour debate, described at one stage by deputy speaker Dame Rosie Winterton as a “slanging match”, MPs rejected the SNP motion by 321 votes to 214, majority 107.

Opening the debate, Blackford said: “Month after month, scandal after scandal, the charge sheet gets longer and longer, but not one single person is ever held to account. If the public is to have any confidence in this place then that needs to change today.

“Because unless the Prime Minister faces consequences – unless he is censured – he won’t just think he’s gotten away with the mess he has made of the last few months, he will think he can do it all over again.

“And let’s be very clear, if the Prime Minister isn’t properly censured today, it will also be final proof that the Tories really do believe that it’s one rule for them and one rule for everybody else.”

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After listing “untrue” claims from Johnson, the SNP MP added: “And on the basis of all the evidence, I can only conclude that the Prime Minister has repeatedly broken the sixth principle of public life. I can only conclude that the Prime Minister has demonstrated himself to be a liar.”

He also accused Johnson of “orchestrating much” of the “sleaze and corruption” linked to his Government.

Deputy commons speaker Dame Eleanor Laing had warned Blackford and other MPs taking part in the debate to use “temperate” and “parliamentary” language, saying: “Those speaking in favour of the motion should set out their arguments clearly. Intemperate abuse is as out of order on this motion as much as on any other.”

But she said a relaxation of the rules would be allowed because the debate was about Johnson’s conduct specifically, adding: “In this particular case, because it is a substantive motion of this kind, arguments intended to criticise or defend that conduct are in order, therefore things may be said which the chair would not normally permit in other proceedings.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said Blackford “opts to launch pantomime season in the month of November, complete with an over-the-top characterisation of the Prime Minster, who clearly he wishes would disappear in a puff of smoke”.

Johnson, he added, was a “hugely popular prime minister of this country, who returned this House with an 80-seat majority and is getting on with the job of building back better”.

Conservative former health minister Matt Hancock said the SNP motion was “pitiful politicking” but SNP MP Steven Bonnar condemned Johnson for “institutional sleaze”.

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SNP MP Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) added: “Defeats in the courts, judicial reviews, trying to get Owen Paterson off the hook, cash for honours, voter suppression, weakening the Electoral Commission, ignoring dark money, unlawful prorogation.

“This is a pattern of self-serving, self-seeking behaviour. And an approach to governance which is grubby, to say the least, and smacks of dishonesty.

“The rot starts at the top. The fish rots from the head down. That’s the Prime Minister. The buck should stop with him. And the process to end this should end today with support for this resolution.”

Conservative MP Andrew Bowie said he was “angry” the House was debating the motion while “Scots are freezing in their homes, have no access to services” because of Storm Arwen.

The MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine said the SNP was “playing politics” while people in Scotland were “dealing with a catastrophe and a crisis”.