Senior Conservative warns Rishi Sunak not to abstain on privileges committee vote

A senior Conservative MP has said if Rishi Sunak does not take part in Monday’s vote on the privileges committee report on Boris Johnson he will not be “rising to the importance of the occasion”.

MPs will be given a free vote on the report, but allies of Mr Johnson have warned of consequences, including deselection, for those Conservatives who back the motion.

Damian Green, the former first secretary of state and de facto deputy PM under Theresa May, said that he is “intending to vote for the committee’s report” and suggested fellow Conservative MPs should not “run away” from the committee’s findings.

Asked if he believed it was important for Mr Sunak to vote for the report, Mr Green told the BBC: “I think personally it is such an important act that deliberately abstaining is not really rising to the importance of the occasion.

“Clearly it is very, very unusual if not unique to have this kind of report on a former prime minister and I am going to vote for it with a heavy heart, with sadness… I don’t want to be doing this but it seems to me the report is very clear cut and parliament should respect its own procedures.”

It came as Downing Street yesterday would not confirm whether Mr Sunak will be in the House of Commons for the vote.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading ally of Boris Johnson, has predicted that the prime minister will abstain during Monday’s vote on the privileges committee report.

Asked during an interview on LBC how Mr Sunak should vote, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Rishi Sunak will abstain on the basis that it is a parliamentary matter”.

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has said that Mr Sunak’s potential absence from the commons vote on the committee’s findings on Monday “confirms yet again his weakness”. 

“It would be a massive failure if he doesn’t join parliament in holding the former prime minister Boris Johnson to account”, he added. 

The privileges committee ruled yesterday in a sensational verdict that, had Mr Johnson not resigned as an MP, the group would have recommended a 90-day suspension as sanction for deliberately misleading the House. The committee also recommended Mr Johnson be stripped of his House of Commons pass.

Mr Johnson called the conclusion “deranged”, “a lie” and “the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

Ahead of a commons vote on Monday, allies of the former PM continue to step up their attacks on the report which found the former PM  lied to parliament on multiple occasions. 

Sir Jake Berry, the former Conservative party chairman and ally of the former prime minister, has this morning called the privileges committee report an “absolute disgrace”, accusing the cross-party panel of seeking to “gag MPs”.

Sir Jake told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “For the first time in my parliamentary career, I’m afraid to talk about a report or the findings of a committee of parliament, because they have threatened MPs that if they do so, they themselves will be subject to the sorts of sanctions.

“It’s an attack on free speech. It’s an absolute disgrace and it rather begs the question that if the committee is so certain and so happy with their findings, why are they trying to stop any debate on this, to gag MPs and prevent them talking about it.”

He said he was “almost certain that parliament will vote in favour” of the report on Monday, but that he will “certainly be one of those in the no lobby opposing this report, because I think both the conclusions and, to some extent, the way the committee was made up in terms of this report are wrong”.

Mr Johnson’s arch-ally in Nadine Dorries also said any Conservative MP who votes to approve the report is “fundamentally not a Conservative”.

Meanwhile, David TC Davies, the Welsh Secretary, has said he could not “really see any way back for Boris”.

Asked during an appearance on BBC Question Time last night if he believed the former premier’s political career was “finally dead and buried”, Mr Davies replied: “I think it probably is.

“I am not saying whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. But I don’t really see any way back for Boris. He has just left parliament, he has resigned, he chose to do that and that is fine — any MP who has had enough can resign when they want to”, he added. 

The leader of the Liberal Democrat party has said Mr Johnson “deserves further punishment” for lying to MPs.

Sir Ed Davey told Sky News: “I think now we look to the Prime Minister to show some leadership. Rishi Sunak has been quite weak on this. He’s kowtowed to his backbenchers and people in the Conservative Party who still won’t face the facts about Boris Johnson, and Rishi Sunak should therefore withdraw this lifetime allowance.

“Boris Johnson will be paid £115,000 a year for the rest of his life to organise his offices. I mean, I just don’t think that sits alongside this report. He deserves further punishment, for sure.”