PM pulls devastating amendment amid fears of significant rebellion by Conservative MPs
The Prime Minister dramatically withdrew his attempts to block an inquiry at the last minute, giving Tory MPs a free vote on a Labor motion to open an inquiry by the Commons Privileges Committee.
Boris Johnson faced more Conservative calls for his resignation on Thursday after a humiliating U-turn in which he admitted to a formal inquiry that he had misled Parliament about the parties at Downing Street.
It comes after dozens of Tory MPs allegedly prepared to rebel by abstaining on Labor’s motion, leading to suggestions Mr Johnson lacked the numbers to win a vote.
In a further blow to Mr Johnson’s authority, two senior Conservatives – William Wragg and Steve Baker – called for him to be ousted during the debate over the investigation.
Mr Johnson now also faces another inquiry from Partygate once the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the scandal is completed after Labor’s motion was approved unopposed.
The inquiry will examine whether the Prime Minister’s comments about alleged lockdown-busting No 10 parties amounted to contempt for Parliament.
It will have wide investigative powers, most notably the ability to compel the release of reports, documents and photos related to the Partygate scandal, which could cause great embarrassment, and to recommend sanctions.
Visiting India, Mr Johnson acknowledged the situation was “serious” but insisted he had “nothing to hide” and claimed he had no qualms about being removed by his own MPs.
He told Sky News: “People said it looks like we’re trying to stop things. I did not want. I didn’t want people to be able to say that. I don’t want this thing to go on forever. But honestly, I have absolutely nothing to hide.
“If the opposition wants to talk about it, that’s fine.”
But several Tory MPs used the afternoon debate to voice their dissatisfaction.
Former minister Mr Baker, an influential mobilizer in the backbenches, told MPs the prime minister “shouldn’t have been around for a long time”.
Mr Baker, a prominent Brexiteer who played a key role in Theresa May’s ouster, said: “Really, the Prime Minister should just know the gig is over.”
Wragg, Tory leader of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, used a scathing speech to confirm he had filed a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.
“I cannot reconcile the Prime Minister’s continued leadership of our country and the Conservative Party,” he told the House of Commons.
Union leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “They say there are worse crimes: ‘He didn’t rob a bank, he just broke the rules for 10 minutes, that was all a long time ago’, every time one of these arguments is made out, the status of this House is gradually being eroded and our democracy is becoming a little weaker because the convention that Parliament must not be misled and that in return we must not accuse each other of lying are not odd quirks of this strange place, they are cornerstones, upon which our constitution is built.”
This story has been updated.