Divided Tories prepare for free vote on Boris Johnson Partygate report


Conservative MPs head to their constituencies on Friday with the party facing deep divisions over Monday’s vote on the privileges committee’s report into Boris Johnson.

The Commons will hold a free vote on Monday on whether to formally approve the report, which found on Thursday that Johnson deliberately misled parliament over lockdown-breaking parties in No 10.

The vote is largely symbolic, given Johnson is no longer an MP. But it threatens to cause deep rifts within the Tory party, with some on the Conservative benches insisting that parliament’s procedures should be upheld, while others threaten retaliation for anyone who votes in favour of the report.

“I think it’s important that parliament respects its own systems,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We set up this committee asking them to do this very serious report. They’ve come up with what is clearly a very damning set of conclusions. If parliament runs away from that then it calls into question whether we should carry on having this kind of self-regulation.”

Johnson’s allies admit they expect parliament to approve the report, with opposition parties united in favour of it and mass abstentions expected on the Tory benches. But several of those closest to the former prime minister are promising to target any Conservative MP who does turn up to vote in favour.

One Johnson backer told the Guardian on Thursday: “They just don’t realise the extent of anger they have created, and that will be manifested.” Nadine Dorries, who has promised to resign from her Mid Bedfordshire seat in protest at not being given a peerage but has not yet done so, has warned “deselections will follow” for Tory MPs who vote for the report.

Downing Street has still not said whether Rishi Sunak will attend Monday’s vote, with the government declining to put pressure on MPs. The Telegraph reported on Friday the prime minister planned to meet an unnamed foreign leader on that day, which might render him unable to vote.

Johnson is likely to cause more difficulties for Sunak on Friday when he is expected to be unveiled as the new mystery columnist writing weekly for the Daily Mail. A report in the Financial Times even suggested he could stand as an independent in next year’s London mayoral contest.

Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, made it clear on Thursday the government would not put pressure on Tory MPs to vote one way or the other on Monday. She told the Commons she wanted MPs to “read the report … make their own judgments about it, and take the task that is our privilege to do seriously and soberly”.