LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced stinging criticism on Thursday from his own Conservative MPs and the embarrassing prospect of a probe into whether he lied to parliament over the “Partygate” scandal.
Lawmakers agreed to launch an investigation by a parliamentary committee into his past denials to the House of Commons of lockdown lawbreaking in Downing Street that caused widespread public anger.
Under the code for ministers, misleading parliament is ordinarily a resigning matter but a bullish Johnson — on a two-day trip to India — insisted he was not going anywhere.
The investigation by parliament’s privileges committee will begin once London police have finished their own probe and an internal report on the scandal is published in full.
During a debate before the vote, several members of Johnson’s Conservative party broke ranks to lambast his behaviour, and indicated he no longer had their support.
The signs of a growing rebellion came after Johnson last week became the first British leader to be fined for breaking the law, as police confirmed they had issued dozens of penalty notices to his staff.
That prompted one junior minister to resign, while senior Tory backbencher Mark Harper told parliament earlier this week that Johnson was “no longer… worthy” of being prime minister.
On Thursday, Tory MP Steve Baker appeared to join him, saying Johnson “now should be long gone” and said he would support the probe.
“Really, the prime minister should just know the gig’s up,” he added.
Another Tory, William Wragg, also said he backed an investigation, noting the Commons “can be a pantomime, a farce, turgidly boring” but that “it should always be reasonably honest”.
Tory Anthony Mangnall said he could not forgive Johnson for “misleading the House”.
In India, Johnson insisted he would not quit and intended to fight the next general election — still likely at least two years away.
“I understand people’s feelings,” he told Sky News.
But he said of stepping aside: “I don’t think that is the right thing to do. What I am determined to do is make sure we continue with our agenda.”