Boris Johnson partygate hangover leaves Rishi Sunak with a headache

Boris Johnson partygate hangover leaves Rishi Sunak with a headache

MPs will vote on Monday on whether to accept the recommendations of the Privileges Committee

The fallout from a scathing report which found Boris Johnson lied to MPs over partygate has left Rishi Sunak with a battle to hold his warring Tory party together.

The Commons will vote on Monday on the Privileges Committee’s report, which recommended that Mr Johnson should have faced a 90-day suspension had he not already resigned in advance of its judgment and be banned from holding a pass to access Parliament.

MPs will be given a free vote, but allies of Mr Johnson warned Tories they could face battles with their local parties to remain as candidates at the next election if they back the motion.

The sanctions proposed by the Tory-majority committee are expected to pass, with only a relatively small group of Johnson loyalists set to oppose the report’s findings, although many more Conservatives could simply not turn up.

Mr Johnson’s exit from Parliament has also left Mr Sunak facing a tricky by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip on July 20, with Labour hopeful of gaining the west London seat.

Another by-election on the same date, triggered by Tory Nigel Adams who was denied a peerage in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list, will take place in Selby and Ainsty.

Former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, who had also announced she was going to resign, is staying on while she seeks to investigate how she was denied a seat in the Lords as part of the former prime minister’s honours list.

She warned that any Tory MPs who endorsed the Privileges Committee’s report on Monday were not “true Conservatives” and would be “held to account by members and the public”.

“Deselections may follow. It’s serious,” she said.

Former MEP David Campbell Bannerman said: “Any Tory MP who endorses this report does not respect democracy and must face deselection.”

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt called for calm, saying “all of us must do what we think is right and others must leave us alone to do so”.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak would “take the time to fully consider the report”, but officials were unable to say whether he would take part in Monday’s vote.

Cabinet minister David Davies said he believed the report had killed off Mr Johnson’s hopes for a political comeback.

Asked if Mr Johnson’s career was now over, the Welsh Secretary told BBC’s Question Time: “I think it probably is. I’m not saying whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“I don’t really see any way back for Boris.”

The committee found Mr Johnson deliberately misled the House with his partygate denials before being complicit in a campaign of abuse and intimidation against the MPs investigating him.

Branding him the first former prime minister to have ever lied to the Commons, the Privileges Committee said the offences merited a 90-day suspension which would have paved the way for a by-election if he had not preemptively resigned in protest.

Mr Johnson was furious at what he called a “deranged conclusion”, claiming the 14-month investigation had delivered “what is intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

The committee, comprised of four Tories, two Labour MPs, and one from the SNP, found many aspects of Mr Johnson’s defence were “not credible”, allowing them to conclude he “intended to mislead” MPs.

They dismissed Mr Johnson’s argument that mid-pandemic staff leaving dos in Downing Street were essential to maintain staff morale, noting they attracted police fines while the rules would have been clear to him.

“A workplace ‘thank you’, leaving drink, birthday celebration or motivational event is obviously neither essential or reasonably necessary,” the MPs wrote.

“That belief, which he continues to assert, has no reasonable basis in the rules or on the facts.”

The committee said his public criticism was a “cynical attempt to manipulate” the opinions of MPs and the public.

Meanwhile, further evidence of Mr Sunak’s problems with managing his own party came as Telford MP Lucy Allan announced she would step down at the next election.

The Shropshire town is where Mr Johnson launched his 2019 manifesto, but Ms Allan said: “Today’s Conservative Party is just not interested in seats like Telford anymore.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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