On Thursday, the House of Commons’ Privileges Committee published its long-awaited, damning report on former prime minister Boris Johnson’s comments to MPs about the Partygate scandal, which found the ex-Uxbridge and South Ruislip politician deliberately misled the House over the issue - and was “complicit” in a “campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation” of the committee itself.
And it was these comments from Clarke-Smith which Derbyshire challenged him on during the episode of Newsnight, beginning by asking him why he was engaging in the very thing (intimidation) which the committee was talking about.
He replied: “I’d say they’ve overreached as well, there, and again, there were very specific parameters. They were looking at what he said in parliament.
“Now, Boris Johnson, he’s given to the committee, he’s sent evidence in there, as well, and he’s been quite clear.”
Derbyshire responded: “And they decided he lied. He misled on nine occasions.”
In a further defence of Johnson, Clarke-Smith argued it “happens all the time” whereby ministers give a statement at the despatch box, only for new facts to surface later, and they come back and correct the record later.
However, Derbyshire wasn’t having it.
“He didn’t do that, according to this report. He didn’t do that,” she said, and when the Tory MP continued to state Johnson corrected the record, she asked him if he was “sure you’ve read it”.
“They said he purported to come to the Commons and correct the statement, but they weren’t satisfied he had – that was another contempt,” Derbyshire added.
Although Clarke-Smith didn’t appear to side himself with Johnson’s claim that the committee’s investigation into him – which was backed by MPs without a division – he did argue there is an expectation of “a fair hearing” and the opportunity to “give evidence and for it to be considered”.
And, as Derbyshire went on to point out, Johnson absolutely had that opportunity – we all remember his dramatic oral evidence session earlier this year.
“Mr Johnson had multiple occasions to give evidence. He presented written evidence, he presented oral evidence, he had 250 grand of taxpayers’ money to pay for his lawyers, even though he’s earned £6 million since September.
“You’re not saying he’s a victim here, are you?”
Turning to reports that MPs who criticised the Privileges Committee’s findings as one made by a “kangaroo court” may be punished for doing so, Clarke-Smith said that “as a parliamentarian, you expect to be able to scrutinise, you expect to be able to object, to be able to debate”.
“Not trash them,” Derbyshire interjected.
Clarke-Smith replied: “Not trash it, no, and we accept they have a very difficult job to do on these committees. I have a lot of respect for people who do it…”
Derbyshire quickly interrupted: “No you don’t, You’re calling them a kangaroo court. Don’t be disingenuous, you don’t have respect for them.”
The seven-minute interview has since trended on social media, with one Twitter user describing Derbyshire’s takedown as a “thing of beauty”:
\u201c@BBCNewsnight @vicderbyshire Amazing journalism, speaking truth to power, the absolute essential role of well informed fact-checking in a democracy on full display. More of this please Beeb!\u201d
\u201cA very difficult watch. Nobody likes to see someone voluntarily humiliate themselves.\u201d
— HENRY MORRIS \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7 (@HENRY MORRIS \ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7)
\u201cThe phrase thick as mince springs to mind watching these absurd people trying to defend Johnson. And this eejit will probably lose his seat because of BJ & didn\u2019t even get a knighthood.\u201d
\u201cWatch this\ud83d\udc47\nTory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith humiliates BBC Marxist Victoria Derbyshire in his articulate defence of Boris Johnson.\nClarke-Smith is buff, chiselled & so impressive.\nBravo sir!\ud83d\udc4f\nDerbyshire has to concede defeat like the crazed moth she is.\nhttps://t.co/HeWpixiiIR\u201d
— Sir Michael Take CBE (@Sir Michael Take CBE)
\u201cWow ... I'm so used to presenters and client journalists now that this has literally knocked my socks off.\nWell done Victoria Derbyshire \ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f\u201d
— Julie Street \ud83d\udc1f \ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa\ud83d\udc99\ud83d\udc9b\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Julie Street \ud83d\udc1f \ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa\ud83d\udc99\ud83d\udc9b\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6)