Britain's House of Commons on Thursday ordered a parliamentary investigation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and whether he knowingly lied to Parliament about breaking the law with parties at Downing Street during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Johnson's government had tried to delay the vote, but when enough members of his Conservative Party appeared set to vote for the investigation, Downing Street dropped its opposition.
The investigation was approved by voice vote, with no objections, after five hours of debate. The Committee of Privileges will begin its inquiry as soon as the police have concluded their investigation of the "partygate" gatherings. Johnson, along with his wife and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, was fined 50 pounds ($66) last week for attending illicit parties, making him the first British prime minister found to have broken the law while in office.
If the committee finds that Johnson misled Parliament, which would historically force Johnson's resignation, it can recommend that he be suspended, ordered to apologize, or expelled from Parliament. Lawmakers would then approve or reject the report and recommended sanctions.
Either way, "Boris Johnson will become the first prime minister to be investigated for claims he deliberately misled Parliament," writes BBC political correspondent Helen Catt. And "in a political system that largely relies on trust and honesty, that is a big deal."
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said during the debate that "the simple principle that honesty, integrity and telling the truth matter in our politics" is "a British principle" and "a principle under attack." Scottish National Party parliamentary leader Ian Blackford said the "simple" truth is that Johnson "lied to avoid getting caught, and once he got caught, he lied again."
Johnson, traveling in India, said he has "no concerns" about the investigation.