Michael Gove tries to cool row over Boris Johnson’s bombshell resignation
Rishi Sunak went to war with Boris Johnson today accusing the ex-PM of asking him to do something that ‘wasn’t right’ over honours for MPs.
Speaking at a tech summit in London, Mr Sunak directly addressed the bombshell Commons resignations by Mr Johnson and two of his allies.
He said he had not been willing to overrule the House of Lords Appointments Commission by deferring peerages until the general election, or promise to give awards in the future. ‘I didn’t think it was right and if people don’t like that then tough,’ he said.
The premier’s full-frontal attack on Mr Johnson’s long-awaited resignation honours list came as ministers dismissed criticism of the Commons privileges committee as a ‘kangaroo court’.
The cross-party group of MPs is due to meet later to finalise their report into allegations that Mr Johnson recklessly misled Parliament over Partygate.
The findings could be released as soon as today, and is expected to make clear that they would have recommended a 20-day suspension. Seeing a draft version of the report was what triggered Mr Johnson standing down from Parliament on Friday.
The committee – which has a Labour chair but a majority of Tory members – could also call for Mr Johnson to be barred from the parliamentary estate for questioning its integrity.
Mr Sunak is struggling to quell a Tory civil war with the prospect of three by-elections looming. Along with Mr Johnson’s resignation, two of his allies – Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams – also announced they were standing down with immediate effect.
There has been a bitter row over Mr Johnson’s honours list, with Mr Sunak accused of reneging on an agreement for MPs to defer peerages until the election – something the PM denies.
On a whirlwind day in British politics:
- Mr Johnson, Ms Dorries and former Cabinet minister Nigel Adams are set to be appointed to the Manor of Northstead and Chiltern Hundreds – the traditional way of quitting the Commons outside of an election;
- The selection process for the Tories’ London mayor candidate has descended into acrimony after minister Paul Scully – seen as an ally of Mr Johnson – was snubbed from the three-strong shortlist;
- Mr Johnson has slammed the Cabinet Office for blocking him from handing crucial WhatsApps to the Covid Inquiry in a separate row.
Boris Johnson was facing a recommendation from the Commons privileges committee that he should be suspended from the House for weeks – probably meaning he would have to contest a by-election
Michael Gove (pictured) swiped that the government is ‘getting on with important things’ today as the Tories face a fresh meltdown after Boris Johnson ‘s dramatic resignation
‘That was to either overrule the Holac (House of Lords Appointments Commission) committee or to make promises to people.
‘Now, I wasn’t prepared to do that. I didn’t think it was right and if people don’t like that, then tough.’
Boris ally snubbed for Tory London mayor candidate shortlist
A Government minister seen as the frontrunner to be the Tory candidate for London mayor has failed to make the shortlist to take on Sadiq Khan.
Minister for London Paul Scully missed out on the final three drawn up by the party ahead of next year’s election.
The Sutton and Cheam MP has been in the ministerial post since 2020 and served under Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.
He announced his candidacy last month and was seen as the favourite for the Tory nomination.
But the party last night chose three relative unknowns to run-off for the final place.
Former Downing Street adviser Daniel Korski and London Assembly Member Susan Hall will battle it out with Mozammel Hossain, a barrister who did not publicly announce he was running.
Mr Sunak added: ‘When I got this job, I said I was going to do things differently because I wanted to change politics, and that’s what I’m doing.
‘And I’m also keen to make sure that we change how our country works, and that’s what I’m here talking about today: making sure that we can grow our economy, that we can maintain our leadership in the innovative industries of the future.’
But an ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘Rishi secretly blocked the peerages for Nadine and others.
‘He refused to ask for them to undergo basic checks that could have taken only a few weeks or even days.
‘That is how he kept them off the list – without telling Boris Johnson.’
Downing Street said it was ‘entirely untrue to say that anyone from No 10 attempted to remove or change or alter Holac’s list’.
The PM’s spokesman said ‘this is a process for Holac to make a decision’ adding that ‘when it comes to peerages, the final list comes to the Prime Minister’.
In a round of interviews this morning, Michael Gove swiped that the government is ‘getting on with important things’ today as the Tories face a fresh meltdown after Boris Johnson‘s dramatic resignation.
The Levelling Up Secretary attempted to draw a line under the former PM’s political career – with whom he has had a turbulent rivalry – saying Rishi Sunak is a ‘better’ leader and the party is ‘united’ behind him.
Mr Gove told Times Radio, said: ‘I’ve been a colleague of Boris’s for many years, and I’m sad that it’s come to this but I want to remember with admiration those things that he achieved while in office.
‘But I also think now that Boris has made the decision to stand down it’s important that everyone recognises that the Government is getting on with the most important things.
‘I will always think of Boris with affection,’ he said.
‘And Boris will always want to argue his case, as he has done through his political career with individual flair and pungency. But he’s now standing down as a member of Parliament.
‘He’s a free agent and, again, he will continue, I’m sure, to contribute in his own way.’
Mr Gove told Sky News he ‘wouldn’t describe the committee as a ”kangaroo court”’.
And he refused to say how he would vote assuming the committee’s report is brought to a vote in the House of Commons.
‘I’ll have to read the report, like every Member of Parliament,’ he said.
‘Because I think all of us will have the opportunity to vote according to our judgment on this matter.
‘I’ll read the report, see what the recommendations are, make up my own mind.’
Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams both announced their resignations last week
Mr Johnson quit after the committee sent him a ‘warning letter’ which is thought to have confirmed it will find him guilty of lying when he told MPs no Covid rules were broken at No10 gatherings.
The seven-strong committee is said to be considering fresh sanctions against him, which could include withholding the Commons pass given to most former MPs allowing them continued access to the parliamentary estate.
Former Commons Speaker John Bercow received a similar punishment following allegations of bullying.
The committee is also expected to consider sanctions against supporters of Mr Johnson who have publicly criticised its proceedings.
Allies of the former PM believe the committee – which is led by Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman – is biased against him. All seven who decided Mr Johnson’s fate had made disparaging comments against him.
The move could spell trouble for a number of prominent MPs, including Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said the committee’s proceedings ‘make kangaroo courts look respectable’.
The committee includes four Tories, but writing in The Mail on Sunday yesterday, Sir Jacob said they ‘ignored the politicking of the chairman and naively went along with her leadership’.
In his resignation statement on Friday, Mr Johnson said it had been ‘naive and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair’. He denied lying to Parliament and said the committee had ‘wilfully chosen to ignore the truth’, adding: ‘Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts.
‘This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.’
A Whitehall source said his comments were likely to be an ‘aggravating factor’ when the committee considers its verdict.
Guto Harri, Mr Johnson’s ex-communications director, said it was bizarre that the former PM could be hounded out by Miss Harman, who is a former acting Labour leader.
He told Sky News: ‘Can you imagine any Labour supporter being happy if someone like William Hague, say, had the fate of Keir Starmer in his hands when he was caught drinking beer and having curry with friends a long way from home in lockdown?
‘People will think, ‘Whoa, a committee led by the former Labour leader can hound Boris out of office when police found him guilty of one minor misdemeanour worth a 50 quid fine?’
At the weekend, the committee accused Mr Johnson of breaking the rules by effectively leaking its findings and questioning its integrity.
‘Mr Johnson has… impugned the integrity of the House by his statement,’ a spokesman said.