ensions have risen further in the Tory party after MPs were granted a vote on whether to approve the findings of the damning report into Partygate which found Boris Johnson committed “repeated contempts” of Parliament.
Mr Johnson was told he faced a three-month suspension from Parliament for deliberately misleading MPs over parties in Downing Street during lockdown.
The damning report published by the Privileges Committee on Thursday also recommended that the former PM be denied an ex-MP’s pass to allow him access to Parliament in future.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt confirmed that the Privileges Committee’s findings will be debated on Monday – the same date as Mr Johnson’s 59th birthday.
MPs are expected to have a free vote, meaning Whips won’t tell their MPs which way to vote, which is likely to expose rifts between Conservative MPs who back the former prime minister and those who want to see him being sanctioned.
Blue-on-blue sniping has already begun, with arch-Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries calling for Tories who vote against Mr Johnson to be kicked out of the party.
The former culture secretary, who announced her intention to resign as an MP after being struck off Mr Johnson’s honours list, tweeted: “Any Conservative MP who would vote for this report is fundamentally not a Conservative and will be held to account by members and the public. Deselections may follow. It’s serious.”
However some Tory MPs already said they will support the report’s findings.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, said he would support the recommendations of the Privileges Committee “because we as a Parliament asked them to do this job”. Conservative MP Tim Loughton told the BBC he also thought he would support them.
Close ally of Mr Johnson, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the Commons will “inevitably” vote in favour of the Privileges Committee report.
“Inevitably Boris will lose the vote because you have the whole of the Opposition against him… but you also have the Boris haters in the Conservative Party,” the former Cabinet minister told Sky News.
Ms Mordaunt said the motion will “ask the House to approve” the report and will be amendable.
She advised MPs to read the report before taking a decision in a process she described as “painful” and “sad”, adding: “But all of us must do what we think is right and others must leave us alone to do so.”
But Rishi Sunak faces bitter Tory infighting erupting in public as the reports findings are debated.
In their withering findings, the senior MPs found five grounds on which Mr Johnson misled the Commons, including most centrally by claiming Covid rules and guidance were followed at all times in No10.
They accused him of seeking to “re-write the meaning of the rules and guidance to fit his own evidence” and of “deliberately closing his mind” to facts about Covid rule breaches in Downing Street.
As Westminster was rocked by the ferocity of the committee’s verdict, Mr Johnson slammed its “deranged conclusion”, claiming its 14-month investigation had delivered “what is intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.
He had already branded the committee, which has a Tory majority, a “kangaroo court” as he announced his bombshell resignation from Parliament on Friday, formally quitting as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Monday.
But the committee responded to his resignation statement by strengthening its recommended suspension, which would have had to be approved by the full House.
“In light of Mr Johnson’s conduct in committing a further contempt on 9 June 2023, the Committee…now considers that if Mr Johnson were still a Member he should be suspended from the service of the House for 90 days for repeated contempts and for seeking to undermine the parliamentary process,” it said.
The MPs said this was done by deliberately misleading the House, deliberately misleading the committee, breaching confidence, impugning the committee, and being complicit in a campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee.
The committee, chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman, said Mr Johnson misled the Commons by:
* Claiming on four separate occasions that Covid rules and guidance were followed in No10.
* Failing to tell the House “about his own knowledge of the gatherings where the rules or guidance had been broken”.
* Saying he relied on “repeated reassurances” that rules had not been broken.
* Insisting on waiting for Sue Gray’s report to be published before he could answer questions in the House, when he had “personal knowledge which he did not reveal”.
* By claiming that rules and guidance had been followed while he was present at gatherings in No10 when he “purported to correct the record” in May 2022.
The 106-page report added: “We came to the view that some of Mr Johnson’s denials and explanations were so disingenuous that they were by their very nature deliberate attempts to mislead the committee and the House, while others demonstrated deliberation because of the frequency with which he closed his mind to the truth.”
But the ex-PM slammed the report, saying: “This decision means that no MP is free from vendetta, or expulsion on trumped up charges by a tiny minority who want to see him or her gone from the Commons.”
The Committee was already intending to recommend a suspension of at least ten days, which would almost certainly have led to him facing a by-election.
The three-month recommended suspension is believed to be the second longest proposed since at least 1949.
The denouement of the committee’s investigation has sparked a fresh bout of Tory civil war, with Mr Johnson and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also publicly clashing over the former’s resignation peerages list.
The Metropolitan Police issued 126 fines for lockdown breaches in No10 and across Whitehall.
Mr Johnson received one penalty for attending his birthday party in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020.
As the Tory civil war over the ex-PM escalated, Rishi Sunak sought to avoid being dragged deeper into the controversy on Thursday morning.
At an immigration visit in Harrow, the Prime Minister said he could not comment on a report he had not seen.
Asked if he believed if Mr Johnson should be allowed to be an MP, he added: “You are talking about a report that I haven’t seen and that no one else has seen. It wouldn’t be right to comment on it in advance of it coming out and being published.”
He added: “These are matters for the House of Commons, and Parliament will deal with it in the way that it does.”
Mr Sunak was also asked if he was “frustrated” by Mr Johnson’s interventions in the past week.
“No, I’m just getting on with delivering for the country,” he said.
Mr Johnson has railed against the committee he has criticised as a “kangaroo court”, and dramatically quit as an MP on Friday after receiving its verdict.
The former Conservative leader’s resignation means he will not serve the lengthy suspension likely to be recommended.
If it was at least 10 days and approved by the Commons, then a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency could have been triggered.
His decision to quit pre-empted such an outcome, with his constituents to go to the polls next month in a major electoral challenge for Rishi Sunak.
Mr Johnson’s ally Nigel Adams also stepped down and his arch-supporter Nadine Dorries has announced she will go too, though her demands for answers about why she was denied a peerage before she formally quits as an MP look set to prolong the by-election struggle for the Prime Minister.
In a last-ditch attempt to disparage the Tory-majority panel on the eve of publication, Mr Johnson called for the Committee’s most senior Conservative member to resign.
He accused Sir Bernard Jenkin of “monstrous hypocrisy” after the Guido Fawkes website reported the MP had gone to a drinks party in Parliament while Covid restrictions were in place in 2020.
But Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said this was a “typical distraction tactic” from the ex-premier “that doesn’t change the fact he broke the law and lied about it”.