LONDON: The allies of Boris Johnson have accused a UK Parliament committee of conducting a 'witch-hunt' against the outgoing British Prime Minister.
Johnson, who resigned in early July triggering a leadership election for the governing Conservative Party to pick a new party leader and the Prime Minister, continues to be investigated by the House of Commons Privileges Committee over whether he knowingly misled Parliament when he denied any breaches of COVID lockdown laws at Downing Street, known as the Partygate scandal.
The members of Parliament close to the 58-year-old outgoing leader believe that probe must now be dropped as he is on his way out.
"If this witch hunt continues, it will be the most egregious abuse of power witnessed in Westminster," said UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, one of Johnson's staunchest allies.
"It will cast serious doubt not only on the reputation of individual MPs sitting on the committee but on the processes of Parliament and democracy itself," she tweeted on Sunday.
If this witch hunt continues, it will be the most egregious abuse of power witnessed in Westminster. It will cast serious doubt not only on the reputation of individual MPs sitting on the committee, but on the processes of Parliament and democracy itself https://t.co/2Pwm7VQ7WI— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) August 7, 2022
Lord Zac Goldsmith, a climate minister who was given a life peerage by Johnson after he failed to be elected an MP in the 2019 general election, also took to Twitter to challenge the parliamentary probe.
"The Partygate probe is clearly rigged. It is a jury comprised of highly partisan, vengeful & vindictive MPs, nearly all of whom are already on the record viciously attacking the person they are judging. It is an obscene abuse of power," he said.
However, there is reportedly another group of Johnson critics within the Tory party who want him to step down as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in London so that the probe can be closed and avert any further damage to the party's reputation.
The investigation is being led by a cross-party committee with a Tory majority, with veteran Labour Party MP Harriet Harman leading it.
"There has been no change to the rules or to terms of reference," a spokesperson for the Commons Privileges Committee said.
The spokesperson said that the inquiry will set out to answer whether the House was misled and if so, whether that amounted to contempt, and if so, how serious that contempt was. The committee intends to call Johnson for oral evidence later in the year.
Earlier, the outgoing Prime Minister was directed to hand over a bunch of related documents for review by the committee.
If found to have knowingly misled Parliament, Johnson could face a suspension from the Commons for 10 or more sitting days and a recall petition, which, if signed by 10 per cent of his constituents, would trigger a by-election.
The COVID-19 law-breaking parties in Downing Street and other government offices were among the scandals that ultimately forced Johnson's resignation as Tory leader last month.
His successor will be elected by party members and either Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or former Chancellor Rishi Sunak will go on to take charge at 10 Downing Street on September 5.