Tory MPs may have to ‘put country before party’ by voting with Opposition to remove PM, John Major says

Exclusive: Ex-PM urges Conservatives to be ready to rebel if necessary – if crisis reaches confidence vote in Commons

Boris Johnson ‘broke lockdown laws’, says John Major

Tory MPs may have to “put country before party” by voting with the opposition to bring down Boris Johnson if he has lied to parliament, John Major says.

Speaking to The Independent, the former Conservative prime minister expanded on his dramatic warning that MPs have “a duty” to act, if dishonesty is shattering public trust in politics.

If Mr Johnson wins a likely no-confidence vote among his MPs, the only route to removing him will be a confidence vote on the Commons floor – which can only succeed if several dozen Tory MPs rebel.

Sir John declined to pre-judge the police inquiry into the No 10 parties, arguing it is better to “wait and see” if the prime minister has “given an accurate version of what happened”.

But, asked if Tory MPs should “put country before party”, if Mr Johnson is shown to have lied to parliament, he replied: “I hope Conservative MPs would always put country before party, in all circumstances.”

Asked, by The Independent, if that included potentially rebelling against the government in a Commons vote of confidence, Sir John repeated: “In all circumstances.”

Although defying Mr Johnson in that way would ordinarily end an MP’s career – preventing them being a Tory candidate at the next election – some Conservatives believe it is a plausible scenario.

Some unhappy Tories have already announced they are quitting the Commons and, following the Brexit battles of the last parliament, the whip was later restored to some rebels.

One former Tory minister said recently: “The next Conservative leader could decide to bring an MP back in those circumstances, if they were seen to have acted in the national interest.”

Sir John spoke after intervening in the Partygate controversy by arguing it is clear that Mr Johnson broke lockdown rules at the No 10 parties now under investigation.

In a speech, he condemned the “unbelievable” excuses “dreamed up” to deny that rules were flouted – warning they are weakening public’s trust in politics.

Sir John argued that “deliberate lies to parliament have been fatal to political careers – and must always be so”, making clear Mr Johnson must quit or be forced out, if he misled the Commons.

“At No10, the prime minister and officials broke lockdown laws. Brazen excuses were dreamed up. Day after day the public was asked to believe the unbelievable,” he said.

“The lack of trust in the elected portion of our democracy cannot be brushed aside. Parliament has a duty to correct this. If it does not, and trust is lost at home, our politics is broken.”

Tory MPs are still awaiting the full Sue Gray report and Met investigation into No 10 lawbreaking, before deciding whether to demand a no-confidence vote.

The crisis deepened for the prime minister overnight, when the police sent out 50 questionnaires to people believed to have broken rules – including to him, it is believed.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in