Boris Johnson claimed he did not know he had broken his own lockdown rules after being fined by police
Boris Johnson will order his MPs to block an investigation into claims that he misled parliament over Partygate, according to reports.
The prime minister offered a ‘wholehearted apology’ yesterday after being issued with a fine for breaking his own lockdown rules at the height of the pandemic, when he gathered in the cabinet room to celebrate his 56th birthday.
However, he insisted that he had not misled the Commons when he said last year that Covid rules were followed at all times in Downing Street.
MPs will vote tomorrow on whether the prime minister’s claim should now be investigated by the privileges committee.
The committee has wide-ranging powers which mean it could ask for civil servant Sue Gray’s yet-to-be-published report into the Downing Street party scandal, as well as any potential photographic evidence that exists.
But for the investigation to take place, opposition parties will have to persuade Tories angered by the PM’s behaviour to join them in voting for the probe.
And Tory whips are telling MPs to vote against the Labour motion, according to The Times.
With an 80-strong majority, Mr Johnson is expected to win the vote tomorrow, but a number of Tory MPs will reportedly abstain amid concerns that it will ‘haunt’ them at the general election.
Mr Johnson is the first sitting prime minister in history to be found to have broken the law, and polls suggest more than half the British public now want him to resign.
The number of abstentions will provide the first clear sign of the strength of concern on the back benches over the scandal.
Yesterday one Conservative MP accused the PM of not being worth of his position and said he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson.
Speaking on the first day the prime minister appeared in the Commons since his fine, former chief whip Mark Harper said: ‘We have a prime minister who broke the laws that he told the country they had to follow, hasn’t been straightforward about it and is now going to ask the decent men and women of these benches to defend what I think is indefensible.
‘I’m very sorry to say this, but I no longer think he is worthy of the great office he holds.’
Mr Johnson said he ‘bitterly regretted’ what happened but claimed he did not know he was breaching his own Covid rules when he attended his birthday party.
He told MPs yesterday: ‘It did not occur to me, then or subsequently, that a gathering in the cabinet room just before a vital meeting on Covid strategy could amount to a breach of the rules.’
Tomorrow’s vote will not determine whether Boris Johnson did mislead parliament – usually a resining matter – but whether there is a case to be examined.
The prime minister is expected to miss the debate due to a scheduled trip to India.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has appealed to Tory MPs to back his party’s motion, accusing Mr Johnson of being ‘dishonest and incapable of changing’.
He claimed that the more Tory MPs defended the prime minister the ‘more the public will believe all politicians are the same’.
He added: ‘There are many decent, honourable members on the benches opposite. They know the damage the prime minister is doing. I urge them once again: don’t follow in the slipstream of an out-of-touch, out-of-control prime minister. Put their conscience first and remove the prime minister from office.’
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