The House of Commons witnessed an emotional moment as a Conservative MP, Laura Farris, delivered a heartfelt defense of Harriet Harman following relentless attacks from Tories over Boris Johnson and the partygate scandal.
Allies of Boris Johnson had insinuated that Harman, a veteran Labour MP and chair of the privileges committee that found the former prime minister guilty of repeatedly lying to parliament, was biased due to her pre-existing tweets about partygate before assuming the role.
On Monday, MPs approved the committee’s report, which condemned the coordinated campaign launched by Johnson’s supporters against its work.
During a debate prior to the report being unanimously accepted without a vote, Conservative MP Laura Farris made a powerful intervention, condemning her Tory colleagues for their actions.
Harriet Harman had long been aware of the potential bias issue and had sought approval from the government to continue as the committee’s chair investigating Boris Johnson.
She wanted to avoid any perception of bias against the former PM and had received assurance from Johnson, who was the prime minister at the time, that she should continue her work.
In Monday’s debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a staunch loyalist of Boris Johnson and one of the individuals criticized for his role in the attacks on the committee, insisted that it was legitimate to question Harman’s position.
However, Laura Farris took a different stance, passionately defending Harman and paying tribute to her remarkable career. Her words moved Harman to tears.
Farris stated, “The member for Camberwell and Peckham (Harman’s constituency) had already announced her intention to retire from parliament at the next election.
Her parliamentary career spans five decades and has been defined by her commitment to advancing women’s rights. Fourteen weeks before she took up that appointment (as committee chair), her husband of 40 years, Jack, had died.”
Against this backdrop, Farris invited fellow MPs to consider what was more likely: that Harman agreed to chair the committee as a final act of service to the House or that she did so out of a personal vendetta against Boris Johnson.
Farris went on to assert, “It is completely unacceptable to allege or insinuate that members of the privileges committee are corrupt or that the inquiry was somehow rigged.”
Harman’s husband, Labour MP Jack Dromey, tragically passed away in his Birmingham flat in January of the previous year.
The initial report by the privileges committee, which holds a Conservative majority, recommended a 90-day suspension for Boris Johnson in the House of Commons if he had not already resigned before its release.