Tory MP warns he no longer supports Boris Johnson during stormy Commons session

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was also ordered to leave the Commons chamber.

Pa Political Staff
Monday 31 January 2022 17:18
Andrew Mitchell MP (House of Commons/PA)
Andrew Mitchell MP (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson was warned he has lost the support of a senior Tory MP over the handling of Downing Street party allegations.

During a stormy House of Commons session, former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said he had previously given his “full-throated support” to the Prime Minister over a 30-year period.

But Mr Mitchell became the latest Tory MP to publicly question Mr Johnson as he said: “I have to tell him he no longer enjoys my support.”

His remarks came after Mr Johnson issued a fresh Commons apology following an update from senior civil servant Sue Gray on the inquiry into the allegations.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was also ordered to leave the Commons chamber after accusing Mr Johnson of having “wilfully misled Parliament” and repeating the claim.

He was about to be booted out the Commons after telling the Speaker “it’s not my fault if the Prime Minister can’t be trusted to tell the truth”, but opted to walk out at the same time Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced he must leave.

Immediately after the raucous exchanges involving Mr Blackford, Tory MP Mr Mitchell rose and asked Mr Johnson: “Does he recall that ever since he joined the party’s candidates list 30 years ago until we got him into Number 10 he has enjoyed my full-throated support?

“But I am deeply concerned by these events and very concerned indeed by some of the things he has said from that despatch box and has said to the British public and our constituents.

“When he kindly invited me to see him 10 days ago, I told him that I thought he should think very carefully about what was now in the best interests of our country and of the Conservative Party, and I have to tell him he no longer enjoys my support.”

The Prime Minister replied: “I must tell him respectfully, my right honourable friend, great though the admiration is that I have of him, I simply think that he is mistaken in his views and urge him to reconsider upon full consideration of the inquiry.”

Conservative former prime minister Theresa May earlier said: “The Covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public. They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules and indeed those around him to have done so too and to set an example in following those rules.

“What the Gray report does show is that Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”

Mr Johnson replied: “No, Mr Speaker that is not what the Gray report says, I suggest that she waits to see the conclusion of the inquiry.”

Former chief whip Mark Harper was among the Tory backbenchers to ask for Mr Johnson to commit to publish Ms Gray’s report in full once the police investigation has concluded.

He noted: “Many have questioned, including my constituents, the Prime Minister’s honesty, integrity and fitness to hold that office. In judging him he rightly asked us to wait for all the facts.”

What is (Mr Johnson's) central message to those people who meticulously complied with all of the rules and suffered terribly for it... as a result of the messages his Government was sending out?

Steve Baker

Mr Johnson replied: “What we’ve got to do is wait for the police to conclude their inquiries, that is the proper thing to do. People have given all sorts of evidence in the expectation that it would not necessarily be published, at that stage I will take a decision about what to publish.”

Conservative former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland added: “Will he give me and the House this undertaking today, that in co-operating with the Metropolitan Police inquiry, he will show the appropriate tone and approach that I think the British public demand of him, and that as a person of serious purpose, who is up to the level of events, that is what they expect from you now, and that is what I will be expecting him to do?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I just want to stress that I have great admiration for the Metropolitan Police and full confidence in the police. I just suggest that they be allowed to get on with their job.”

Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) said: “The backbenches of the Conservative Party need no reminders about how to dispose of a failing leader.

“Can he also, when he is restructuring Number 10, concentrate on the fact that the country wants results, we can’t see the point of such a large Number 10 super-structure, that it needs to be slimmed down and streamlined, and can I commend his determination to restore cabinet government and it is on results over the next few months on which he will be judged.”

Mr Johnson replied: “I’m more than content to be judged on the results, what we’ve already delivered and the results that we will deliver.”

Conservative former minister Steve Baker said: “Millions of people took seriously a communications campaign, apparently designed by behavioural psychologists to bully, to shame and to terrify them into compliance with minute restrictions on their freedom.

“What is (Mr Johnson’s) central message to those people who meticulously complied with all of the rules and suffered terribly for it, including, I might say, those people whose mental health will have suffered appallingly as a result of the messages his Government was sending out?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I want to thank all those people for everything that they did, because together they helped us to control coronavirus and I think thanks to their amazing actions in coming forward to get vaccinated, we’re now in a far better position than many other countries around the world. So I have a massive debt of gratitude to all the people that he describes.”

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