ishi Sunak is set to give ToryMPs a free vote on Boris Johnson’s future if the privileges committee finds he deliberately misled the Commons about the parties held in Downing Street during the pandemic, reports state.
The former Prime Minister is due to apepar at the committee in a televised hearing on Wednesday after denying claims about lockdown rulebreaking.
Mr Johnson faces suspension from the Commons if the committee finds him guilty of misleading MPs over the lockdown parties, although the sanction would need to be approved via a vote in the House.
According to The Times, the Prime Minister will not whip MPs to protect his predecessor.
“There is no way that we are going to get stuck in the hell that is Owen Paterson again,” one Government source said.
Another Tory MP added: “I’m going to follow the committee and I’m sure most of my colleagues will too. They’ve worked under intense pressure.
“The report will be fair and, after all, they’re only doing it because the House asked them to.”
The committee is made up of four Conservative MPs, two Labour and one SNP. It is chaired by former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.
If Mr Johnson is given a suspension of 10 days or more, it would trigger a recall petition in his seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
One Tory MP, however, said the party may become publicly split over the decision, adding: “If it concludes that Boris is guilty there will be a vote on the floor of the house. It’s a no-win situation.
“If Rishi doesn’t stop Boris from being expelled or suspended then the backstabber narrative continues.
“It will pose problems with those MPs and red wall voters. But at the same time, if he stops him in the blue wall there will be demands for integrity. It will reopen the splits in the party again.”
On a visit to San Diego in the US, Mr Sunak was asked by ITV News whether he would try to influence the Tory members of the privileges committee not to impose too big a punishment on him.
Mr Sunak replied: “That wouldn’t be right. This is a matter for Parliament and the House. It’s not a matter for the Government.”
Asked whether he was concerned that a suspension could trigger a by-election, the Prime Minister said: “It’s not right for the Government to get involved.”
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The privileges committee will vindicate Mr Johnson’s position.
“Despite ten months of work, it has not produced a single piece of evidence that shows Mr Johnson knowingly misled parliament. Rather, it will be shown that the evidence supports Mr Johnson’s case.”