Partygate inquisitor bids to become Parliament's sleaze commissioner

Partygate inquisitor Harriet Harman throws her hat into the ring to become Parliament’s sleaze commissioner after ousting former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a ‘kangaroo court’ as chair of the Privileges Committee

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Harriet Harman has thrown her hat into the ring to become Parliament’s sleaze commissioner after helping to oust Boris Johnson.

The veteran Labour MP, who chaired the probe that ruled the former PM had lied to MPs over Partygate, revealed that she wants to become the new chair of the Commons Standards Committee.

It comes after Sir Chris Bryant stepped down from the role after being appointed a shadow minister by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

The move may raise eyebrows among Mr Johnson’s allies who believed that Ms Harman’s probe as current chair of the Privileges Committee was a ‘witch hunt’ and ‘kangaroo court’.

In June, it found that the former prime minister had committed ‘repeated contempts’ of Parliament by deliberately misleading the Commons with denials about parties in Downing Street during lockdown. The conclusion led to his resignation as an MP in June.

Harriet Harman MP, who is bidding to become Parliament’s sleaze commissioner, speaks in the House of Commons

Last week, Ms Harman revealed that her inquiry got a committee clerk to impersonate the former PM – including ‘ruffling’ his hair – as they rehearsed how to interrogate him.

In an interview on Iain Dale’s All Talk podcast she joked about how the clerk’s ‘absolutely hilarious’ impression was spot-on as he got into character and delivered an ‘excellent’ role-play of the former PM.

READ MORE: Ex-Partygate inquisitor Sue Gray to start work as Labour chief of staff today

The Labour veteran, an MP since 1982, admitted she did not want to ‘cock it up’ and ensure the committee was well-rehearsed before Mr Johnson came to give evidence in March this year.

She said: ‘We were feeling this global focus on it and we all felt we had to get it absolutely right.

‘We had two whole days of rehearsals of it, with one of the clerks being Boris Johnson, which was absolutely hilarious because he was ruffling his hair and role-playing.

‘And normally the clerks are very stayed, sober, rational, logical people but he really took to it – he really did it excellently.’ Ms Harman also criticised those MPs who tried to discredit the committee and its findings, claiming it was ‘very galling’ to be labelled a kangaroo court by those within the House of Commons.

In a post yesterday on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ms Harman thanked Mr Bryant for his ‘leadership of Parliament’s Committee on Standards’.

She added: ‘There’s now a vacancy for Chair. I am putting my name forward for election.’ The powerful Committee on Standards works alongside the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards to oversee MPs’ conduct and make decisions on individual complaints.

The veteran Labour MP chaired the probe that ruled former PM Boris Johnson had lied to MPs over Partygate

Ms Harman chaired the cross-party Privileges Committee inquiry into Mr Johnson with six other MPs, including Sir Bernard Jenkin.

Sir Bernard has been branded ‘shameless’ for refusing to stand down from his position on the Privileges Committee and as chair of the powerful Liaison Committee while himself facing a police investigation over alleged lockdown-busting behaviour.

The Tory grandee has refused to stand down from the roles despite Scotland Yard launching a formal probe into claims he attended a party which broke Covid rules.

Earlier this summer he was accused of ‘staggering hypocrisy’ for condemning the ex-PM over lockdown gatherings in Downing Street while facing questions about his own behaviour.

Scotland Yard is still investigating claims Sir Bernard attended a ‘birthday drinks’ bash for his wife, Baroness Jenkin, in December 2020. He has remained silent over the allegations since the surfaced in June.

As many as ten people were said to have attended, with one source claiming social distancing ‘went out of the window’.

But despite this, he co-authored as a member of the privileges committee the report into Mr Johnson, which all but ended the former PM’s Commons career.

Commons rules mean the new chair of the Standards Committee must come from the Opposition, so Mr Bryant’s successor has to be a Labour MP elected in a secret ballot.

Ms Harman has already confirmed that she plans to stand down at the next election, after nearly 40 years as an MP.

It means that if she gets the new role she will only be in it until the PM calls the next election, expected before January 2025.

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