Tories round on Boris Johnson as MPs vote to approve Partygate report

Conservative infighting over Boris Johnson misleading the House of Commons about Partygate reached bitter new heights on Monday night, with his supporters being told to hang their heads in shame.

Johnson faces being blocked from obtaining special access to parliament after being rounded on by furious Tory MPs in an attempt to “restore faith” in democracy.

An overwhelming majority backed the privileges committee’s conclusion that Johnson committed five contempts of parliament, including misleading the Commons and the cross-party group investigating him. Only seven MPs voted against the report, dwarfed by the 354 who voted for it.

Despite Sunak’s attempt to dampen the internal Tory row over the report – by avoiding taking sides in the vote on whether his predecessor lied to MPs – the Tory bloodletting over the damning privileges committee report into Johnson’s continued misleading of parliament ran late into the evening.

Given Johnson quit the Commons last week, the recommended 90-day suspension could not be enforced. Instead, a motion was passed that said he should be blocked from receiving a pass given to most ex-MPs, which allows unfiltered access to the parliamentary estate.

Cutting a lonely figure on the government frontbench, Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, said there were “meaningful consequences” to taking action against Johnson.

The findings by the privileges committee would protect MPs’ “right not to be misled” or “abused in carrying out our duties”, she stressed.

Mordaunt said the “integrity of our institutions matter”, and also took a swipe at “wider issues, such as the debasement of our honours system” – in a veiled criticism of the titles and peerages handed out by Johnson and approved by No 10 earlier this month.

Theresa May, the former prime minister who Johnson’s supporters helped oust over Brexit in 2019, urged Tory MPs not to let friendship or loyalty to colleagues cloud their judgment.

“It is doubly important for us to show that we are prepared to act when one of our own, however senior, is found wanting,” she told MPs, seemingly in reference to the numerous sleaze scandals that engulfed Johnson’s administration.

“Following an unsettling period in our political life, support for the report of the privileges committee will be a small but important step in restoring people’s trust in members of this house and of parliament.”

Further support for the report against Johnson came from Andrea Leadsom, the former business secretary; the longest-serving male MP, Peter Bottomley; and backbencher Angela Richardson.

The extra security that some privileges committee members needed in the face of threats since Johnson stood down was called “deeply shameful” by Richardson, a Tory MP. She specifically deplored the “attacks” on a Conservative member.

Johnson’s allies largely declared they would boycott the vote, stating they would not participate in the proceedings adjudicated on by a “kangaroo court”. But his critics claimed it was a way to avoid revealing his standing in the parliamentary party had become severely diminished.

Government whips had hoped to avoid a formal division by letting the motion pass “on the nod”. But several MPs were determined to force a vote, further showing splits in the Conservative party.

After the vote, Nadine Dorries said the prime minister did not vote because he “would have upset” backers of his predecessor.

Dorries, who has announced her intention to stand down as an MP, tweeted: “Of course Rishi Sunak didn’t vote, if he did, he would have upset the Tory members and voters who support Boris Johnson – and more do support Boris than Rishi.

“Those people aren’t stupid though and they also have long memories.”

Johnson’s backers remained defiant throughout the evening’s debate, continuing to make their feelings known about the report before the house.

Jake Berry, the former “northern powerhouse” minister, said the former prime minister “cannot be held responsible for what people thought he may have meant”.

Harman riposted that she had offered to stand down last summer, but had been “assured that I should continue” by the government. The Guardian has been told the assurance came from Johnson’s final chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris.

She gave a stark warning about the precedent that would be set if Johnson were allowed to get away with his repeated untruths about all Covid guidance being followed in No 10, and called on MPs to endorse the report to “restore faith in our parliamentary democracy”.

Harman said: “Because he was prime minister, Johnson’s dishonesty – if left unchecked – would have contaminated the whole of government, allowing misleading to become commonplace, and thus erode the standards which are essential for the health of our democracy.”

Jess Phillips, a Labour frontbencher, accused Sunak of a “dereliction of duty” by failing to say how he would vote even if he was unable to attend. “I cannot believe that he couldn’t take five seconds out of parroting his pledges to tell us what he thinks should happen [to Johnson],” she said.

As the debate took place, Johnson was giving a speech to the International Democratic Union in which a source said he called the privileges committee “biased and wilfully ignorant”. The source said he added there was “always another innings”.