Tory civil war set to escalate amid Partygate debate
Rishi Sunak’s hopes of defusing a Tory civil war over the Privileges Committee report look set to be dashed today when a series of Conservative MPs will make clear their intention to back the 90-day suspension of Boris Johnson.
The Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, said yesterday that he planned to abstain on any vote on the motion to endorse the committee’s report, which found that the former prime minister had lied repeatedly to Parliament over “Partygate“.
During a Commons debate on the report, the Privileges Committee’s Labour chair, Harriet Harman, is expected to be scathing of Mr Johnson.
Some Tory MPs may also speak in favour of the report’s findings. The Speaker will then ask MPs if they back the motion to endorse the report. If no MPs shout their opposition, the motion will be carried without a vote.
Senior Tories hit campaign trail as potential Johnson vote looms
A number of senior Tory MPs hit the campaign trail in Uxbridge and South Ruislip on Monday, with many Conservatives expected to abstain from a potential vote on whether or not to sanction Boris Johnson in Parliament.
The House of Commons is set to vote on whether or not to back the Privileges Committee’s investigation which found the former prime minister committed “repeated contempts” of Parliament by deliberately misleading MPs with his partygate denials.
But with Rishi Sunak looking set to duck the potential vote, other senior Tories took themselves away from Westminster ahead of Monday’s Commons debate, including Conservative Party chair Greg Hands and Government whip Stuart Anderson.
Both Mr Hands and Mr Anderson joined the campaign trail in support of the Conservative candidate for Mr Johnson’s seat, Steve Tuckwell.
“Back in Uxbridge today with a great team (including MPs) to go canvassing for @tuckwell_steve for the by-election on July 20,” Mr Hands tweeted.
The MP for Chelsea and Fulham also shared a picture of himself on public transport with David Mundell MP and chairman of the Scottish Conservatives Craig Hoy as he travelled to campaign for Mr Tuckwell.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said she will support the motion to approve the Privileges Committee report into the conduct of former prime minister Boris Johnson.
Asked by shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire about how she would vote, Ms Mordaunt told the Commons: “As the member for Portsmouth North I will be voting to support the committee’s report and recommendations.
“But all members need to make up their own minds and others should leave them alone to do so.”
Labour frontbencher suggests Boris Johnson finds a new role behind the bar
Boris Johnson could consider working in a pub to avoid “early retirement”, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary has joked.
Jonathan Ashworth asked whether Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride would give the same advice to the 59-year-old Mr Johnson as he has to other over-50s who have left the labour market before the state pension age.
Mr Ashworth drew attention to the ex-prime minister’s future employment ahead of the Commons debate on the sanctions he should face after being found to have misled the House by a cross-party committee of MPs.
Mr Ashworth told the Commons: “I was recently listening to the Chopper’s Politics podcast where the Secretary of State was the guest.
“He revealed that he is telling his friends in their 50s who are not working, he is saying to them ‘why don’t you just go and serve in the local restaurant or do something in the pub?’
“Well, there’s been a very prominent 59-year-old who has just taken early retirement. Will he be voting to sanction him or is he advising him to just go away and work in the pub?”
Mordaunt: Committee is owed a ‘debt of gratitude’
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said the Privileges Committee were owed a “debt of gratitude” for their report into the conduct of former prime minister Boris Johnson.
She told MPs: “The committee’s report found that Mr (Boris) Johnson deliberately misled the House and the committee and in doing so committed a serious contempt.
“It also found that Mr Johnson breached confidence, undermined the democratic process of this House and was complicit in a campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee.
“It is for members to decide whether these findings and conclusions and sanctions they propose are correct and reasonable, and that is question in front of us today.”
In response to an intervention from Labour MP Toby Perkins (Chesterfield), Ms Mordaunt said: “We all owe the committee a debt of gratitude to the work that they have done on our instruction but it is for members to decide whether the conclusions are correct or not.”
Penny Mordaunt: Debate is crucial for public trust
Penny Mordaunt said the debate on the Privileges Committee report into Boris Johnson’s conduct is important for public trust and the rights of MPs “not to be misled”.
The Commons Leader said: “The real world consequences of a vote today may seem to come down to whether the former member for Uxbridge (Mr Johnson) has a pass to the estate. Our constituents may not appreciate why we are focused on contempt towards the House, as opposed to contempts they may feel have been made against them.”
She added: “But we would be wrong to think there is no meaningful consequences to our actions this afternoon. The work of the Privileges Committee in producing this report before us today does not just examine the conduct of a former colleague.
“Their work has also sought to defend our rights and privileges in this place. The right not to be misled, the right not to be abused in carrying out our duties.”
Ms Mordaunt went on: “This matters because the integrity of our institutions matter. The respect and trust afforded to them matters. This has real world consequences for the accountability of Members of Parliament to each other and the members of the public they represent.
“Today, all members should do what they think is right, and others should leave them alone to do so.”
Boris Johnson is not a Prime Minister to ‘be proud of’ says Labour frontbencher
Boris Johnson is “a far cry from a prime minister this country can be proud of”, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said, after quoting Winston Churchill in the Commons.
The shadow Commons leader said: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
“The words of Winston Churchill. First said in this House decades ago and they hang over us today. Boris Johnson in particular and his supporters should heed the words of his hero.
“Mr Johnson undermined and attacked our democratic institutions, a far cry from a prime minister this country can be proud of. He lied to this House, to the people of this country, and when exposed, lashed out at the system designed to hold him and all of us here to account.”
MPs urged to think of families who lost loved ones in the pandemic
MPs must consider the families of those who lost loved ones during the pandemic as they debate the Privileges Committee report into the conduct of former prime minister Boris Johnson, Labour said.
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire told the Commons: “The backdrop to this report is the thousands of red hearts on the Covid memorial wall just over the river.
“Every one represents a life lost to this awful disease. For every single heart there is human being loved, mourned, and missed.
“For each there is a story around them of awful loss, of grief compounded by goodbyes done over smartphones, lives ended alone, people robbed of precious time together, and relatives unable to comfort each other at funerals.”
Appealing to Mr Johnson’s supporters, she added: “I urge members who continue to defend Mr Johnson and attack the committee and their findings: think of these families and what this means to them, they are our constituents.
“By defending Mr Johnson’s consistent insistence that thank yous, birthdays, and morale boosting parties were essential work events, this hurts them.”
Met officers studying party footage over potential for further investigation
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said officers would study video footage of a party at Tory HQ to decide if there was cause “for further investigation”.
He told The News Agents Podcast the video told a much clearer story than the photograph previously referred to investigators.
He said: As people know, that case has been previously looked at based on a photo. It’s very obvious a video tells a much richer, clearer story than a photo. And so, the team are looking at that with a view to whether that provides a basis for further investigation.”
Sir Mark implied action is likely to be taken over the footage.
He said: “I think we can all see the colourful nature of the video and how much it tells a story way beyond the original photo. I need to let a team work through that but I think we can all guess which way it will go.”
The force considers various factors when deciding whether to investigate alleged breaches of Covid rules retrospectively.
“One of the things we’ve taken account of in the past, of course, has been those involved in sort of setting the law and setting the policy being an aggravating feature, for example,” Sir Mark added.