In a poignant and impassioned address to the House of Commons, Hilary Benn, the Member of Parliament for Leeds Central, called for the acceptance of the Privileges Committee’s report on the conduct of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The report, which delves into the revelations of parties held at 10 Downing Street, found Johnson in contempt of the House.
Benn commenced his speech by acknowledging the gravity of the matter, emphasising that the House should not take pleasure in the debate surrounding a report on contempt. However, he maintained that it was crucial to remember the anger and distress caused by the parties at the Prime Minister’s official residence. Benn highlighted the stark contrast between the revelry witnessed at Downing Street and the sacrifices made by diligent individuals who dutifully adhered to the rules and guidance, often at great personal cost, including the inability to be present as their loved ones took their final breaths.
The Member of Parliament stressed the significance of the Privileges Committee’s investigation, pointing out that it comprised MPs from all sides of the House. He earnestly implored his fellow parliamentarians to accept the committee’s unanimous findings, dismissing any insinuations of conspiracy as both implausible and insulting to the integrity of the House.
Benn further censured Boris Johnson’s behaviour following the receipt and subsequent publication of the draft report. He characterised the Prime Minister’s public attacks on the committee members, their report, and its findings as not only distasteful but also egregious. Benn argued that Johnson’s actions not only added to the contempt he had shown towards the House but also perpetuated a culture of disregard for democratic principles.
Addressing the notion of criticising the report, Benn drew a clear distinction between presenting a case, receiving an adverse ruling, disagreeing with the findings, and questioning the entire process and individuals involved. He condemned attempts to undermine the democratic system, denouncing derogatory language used to dismiss the report as an outright attack on the institution of Parliament and its elected representatives.
Voicing his concerns about the situation, Benn drew parallels between the conduct of Boris Johnson and that of former US President Donald Trump. He cautioned against the dangers of both figures attempting to erode democratic institutions, highlighting the chilling resemblance between their actions and the potential impact on public trust and the democratic fabric of society.
Emphasising the critical role of trust in democracy, Benn quoted the Privileges Committee’s statement, affirming that the House relies on accurate and truthful information from Ministers. He underscored that the public’s confidence in democracy and politicians had been severely undermined by recent events. Benn urged his fellow Members of Parliament to seize the opportunity to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to upholding the truth by accepting the report.
In conclusion, Benn implored his colleagues to endorse the report, asserting that such a decision would not expose the shortcomings of the process or the democratic system but rather exemplify the House’s unwavering dedication to preserving the integrity and strength of democracy.