Politics

Boris Johnson is now openly being called a liar by MPs in parliament

In a rare move, the speaker of the House of Commons permitted MPs to call the prime minister a liar during a debate on whether he should be investigated - for 'lying to MPs'.

Ian Blackford speaking in parliament. Image: Parliament TV

An MP calling the prime minister a liar in parliament would normally have serious consequences – but not today.

“The prime minister of the United Kingdom is a liar,” said SNP House of Commons leader Ian Blackford. He was speaking during the debate to decide whether Boris Johnson should be the subject of a parliamentary investigation into whether he lied to MPs about Downing Street parties during the coronavirus lockdowns. MPs later voted for a probe by the Privileges Committee once the police have finished their investigation.

In a rare move that breaks with convention, the speaker of the House of Commons permitted MPs to call the prime minister a “liar” during the debate. Parliamentary etiquette usually states that such accusatory language, including branding someone a liar, “breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons chamber”. Other examples of banned, unparliamentary language include bastard, drunk, pipsqueek, rat, traitor and hypocrite.

“… at the very heart of this scandal there is one thing that needs to be said. One thing that needs to be heard. And it’s the very reason that we all need to ask,” said Blackford, before branding the prime minister a liar. 

“I genuinely don’t say that lightly, and I don’t say it loosely… Because members across this house know it to be true, and the public have long known it to be true” the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber continued. 

“The prime minister came to this house and denied that there were any parties at 10 Downing Street during the long Covid lockdown. Typically and tellingly, he hid behind his staff saying it. He told us that he was given firm reassurance that no parties had happened, that no rules had been broken.

“And shamefully, to this very day, it is still on the record of this house… Mr Speaker, the house was misled. And so were the public. We were all misled, deliberately. Because the prime minister knew the truth. Not only were parties happening, not only was the law broken, the prime minister was at the very parties he denied had happened.

“The truth is simple, he lied to avoid getting caught. ”

Speaker of the house Sir Lindsay Hoyle did not stop him or interrupt the speech. He clarified that Blackford’s language was allowed because it was “about the terms of what we are debating.”

Tory whips have abandoned attempt to force Conservative MPs to to vote to delay an investigation, meaning it is now expected to be approved. The prime minister is currently in India to urge prime minister Narendra Modi to take a stronger stand against Russia.

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central, was ordered to leave the House in Summer 2021 after refusing twice to take back her remarks that Johnson had “lied to the House and the country over and over again”.

The debate takes place the day after Johnson repeated a false claim about employment for the fifth time in parliament – despite admitting to the Liaison Committee weeks earlier that he knows it is incorrect.

In 2021, a petition to make knowingly lying to parliament a criminal offence passed the threshold for debate, however the UK government announced that it does not plan to do so.

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