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Mon, 15 July 2024

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Most Conservative MPs Expected To Abstain On Boris Johnson Partygate Vote

Many Boris Johnson loyalists were incensed with the findings from the new report

5 min read

A significant number of Conservative MPs are expected to abstain on Monday’s vote on sanctions against Boris Johnson, which would guarantee the motion being passed, after the Privileges Committee concluded the former prime minister misled the Commons over what he knew about lockdown parties in Downing Street.

The Privileges Committee report published today recommended Johnson would have been banned from the Commons for 90 days had he not pre-emptively resigned as an MP on Friday when he received a draft of the report. It also recommended that he is not issued with a former parliamentary members pass, a punishment previously only applied to former Speaker John Bercow following bullying allegations. 

MPs will vote on Monday on whether to endorse the report's sanctions. They will be entitled to a free vote, rather than being whipped by to vote either way, and Tory MPs have been told the vote will be a one-line whip, meaning they are not obliged to participate. A senior government source told PoliticsHome that most Tory MPs are expected to abstain from the vote, despite the government having expressed support for the report's findings. 

The Privileges Committee panel has been conducting an inquiry for over a year into whether the former prime minister misled parliament over lockdown breaches in Downing Street when he was leader.

Another government source told PoliticsHome they felt the report was “brutal” and expected this to end any potential of a comeback for Johnson, despite significant backlash from his staunchest allies, who have repeatedly sought to undermine the committee. 

“I suspect they haven't actually read the report to be very honest," they added.

Johnson and several government insiders gave evidence to the committee earlier this year to investigate whether the former prime minister lied about being aware of six gatherings and parties which allegedly broke Covid-19 rules.

"A reasonable person looking at the events and the Rules would not have the belief that Mr Johnson has professed," the report added. It found the contempt was "all the more serious" as it was conducted by the most senior member of the Government.

Following the report's publication, Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons, said the vote will be a “painful process” for MPs but that they should be “left alone” to “do what we think is right”.

The Cabinet Minister addressed the Commons to confirm MPs will still vote on Monday over whether to give the green light to the recommendations set out by the committee. She said the Government would support the committee’s findings after the report concluded Johnson misled the House multiple times which is a serious contempt of Parliament.

"We have to look at the evidence, we have to look at the report," Mordaunt added, advising her colleagues that they should allow the committee and Parliament to carry out their work. 

Many Johnson loyalists were incensed with the findings, with one accusing the report of being “biased”.

“We are all biased individuals because we disagree with the other team. I thought the judgment would be a nine day suspension, which would have come under the by-election threshold; and then Boris would have given a profuse apology,” they told PoliticsHome.

Another Johnson ally told PoliticsHome the believed the findings were “always” going to be a “political stich up”. “Extreme doesn’t do it justification, it’s obscene and will backfire,” they told PoliticsHome.

A Conservative MP and Johnson loyalist said they “really don’t know” whether Boris will be able to drum enough support for the Monday vote.

But another Tory MP who previously backed Johnson in his latest leadership bid said they saw “no point” in voting on sanctions as he has already resigned as an MP, and that they felt public declarations at this point are just “damaging for everyone”. 

“There's no good answer, is there. The whole thing is just damaging to trust in politics on all sides,” they explained. 

"It's all very Trump isn't it? Boris has shot himself in the foot more times than you can remember and all this was totally avoidable.

"[The] problem is the longer and more angry it all gets, the harder it gets for the party and the government."

However, they added that they did not believe the committee had acted impartially. "The whole thing is a bit of a joke to be honest."

One Tory MP said that they were “not sure” about Johnson losing his former members’ pass. “He is not a risk to people in the building and could come in accompanied by a passholder anyway”.

They also suggested any debate would be “largely academic” as the former prime minister has “resigned anyway”.

A snap poll by Savanta following the report's publication has shown that just less than half (47 per cent) of the public believe Johnson's political career is now over, while 40 per cent say it is not.  

Three in five said a political return for Johnson would be unwelcome, while 28 per cent said they would welcome it. 

Two thirds said they agreed with the committee's conclusion that the former prime minister deliberately misled the House of Commons. 

Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta said this was "relatively damning polling".

"Johnson's innate reluctance to accept responsibility for his failings has resulted in a former Prime Minister being found unprecedently in contempt of Parliament, and the public seem ready to move on from him entirely," he said.

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