Andrew Marr: Partygate report on Boris Johnson shows Parliamentary democracy is still in good order

15 June 2023, 18:17

Marr mono 15.06

Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Privileges Committee's report on Boris Johnson shows our Parliamentary democracy is still in good working order, Andrew Marr has said.

Mr Johnson was today accused of an 'attack on democracy' after the cross-party group of MPs found that he knowingly misled Parliament five times.

The former prime minister has labelled the report a "disgrace" and says he is the victim of a kangaroo court, but LBC's Andrew Marr argues the ruling highlights our functioning democracy.

Speaking on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter said: "The report by MPs into Mr Johnson published this morning is, indeed, a moment of history. Never in modern times has a politician so senior, a former Prime Minister, faced a verdict so severe and so devastating.

"They are quite sure that he lied to Parliament. But they also think his dismissive, aggressive and at times menacing attitude to the committee itself was a gross contempt of Parliament.

"'Contempt' in this context is a procedural, almost technical term; but Johnson has returned it to ordinary language: talking of the MPs being deranged, and a Kangaroo court and lying and being hypocrites it's clear he feels real, in the gut, contempt for these MPs, these  little people, and their silly, stuffy rules and pompous self-regard.

"Who are they beside the great leader, the man of Destiny, these tiddly tinies of Lilliput trying to tie the great haystack-headed Gulliver down?"

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Andrew continued with his analogy: "To be fair to Johnson he would probably go for another parallel, Caesar surrounded by assassins in the Senate. Earlier today he accused the committee of "the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination". Et tu, Bernard?

"Caesar was finished off with 23 stabs on the Ides of March, March 15th. Well, wrong month but it is indeed the 15th of June. Caesar was 55 when he died, Johnson is 58; the fall of Caesar was followed by a bloody Roman civil war.

"Let's see what happens but that's really up to the Tory party now. I say again, Boris Johnson has engorged too much political attention for too long.

"What the committee was doing was laying down, a line that, if crossed, destroys democratic politics. Truth matters, and trying really hard to tell it matters, and thinking hard about what is true and what is false is the floor, the base, on which all real political debate stands.

"Take it away, and we are in a confusing, impossible wilderness of fantasy, fake news and outright deception - how can a country be governed from that place?"

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"It’s more important than ever in the age of social media, AI and deepfakes, and of wild conspiracy theories spreading at the speed of light.

"Now, you may say, all politicians deceive - but some more than others, and sometimes a stand has to be made. A stand was made today.

"This matters too for, constitiutional reasons. We don't live in a direct democracy of referendums and plebiscites and triumphal presidential victories.

"That is not our understanding of democracy. We live in a parliamentary system where we elect - these days - around 650 people to collectively argue, and use their consciences to vote and take us in this direction or that.

"You might like it or dislike it; It has, goodness knows, plenty of flaws and failures but it has been our system since the days of peasants ploughing with oxen and the first steam engines.

"Marxists dislike parliamentary democracy because they think it protects the power of capitalism. Fascists dislike it because it makes it harder to do away with the rule of law. It’s both anti-anarchy and anti-dictator."

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty

Andrew finished: "One leading MP told me earlier today, waving his hands at the building around him: all that stands between us, and the mob, is this place. Yes, I know, plenty of folk think they would much prefer the Mob.

"But anyway, one of the things happening today was that Parliament was just reasserting itself - MPs elected from all parts of the country were saying, we are not simply tiddly little people but we are the representatives of everyone, and therefore we really matter.

"I'm very rarely a sunny optimist on this show, I know, but - sorry Boris Johnson - on balance this was a good day for British democracy."