Boris Johnson maintains 100% loss record as PM after MPs vote to reject motion to shut down parliament

Move means Johnson must be in Westminster for PMQs on the scheduled day of his leader’s speech to activists

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 26 September 2019 15:07
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MPs reject Boris Johnson's motion to shut down parliament for Tory party conference

Downing Street has responded with fury to MPs’ refusal to allow Boris Johnson to shut parliament down for a second time just days after it was reopened by his humiliating Supreme Court defeat.

The House of Commons‘ rejection – by a margin of 306 to 289 – of Mr Johnson’s request for a six-day recess lasting until Thursday has thrown plans for next week’s Conservative Party conference into disarray.

Conservative sources insisted that the four-day gathering in Manchester – opening on Sunday and due to culminate in Mr Johnson’s first address to delegates as leader on Wednesday – will go ahead as planned.

But a senior No 10 source blasted as “cynical” the MPs who voted to block the recess, including some former Tories expelled for their rebellion over Brexit.

“Conference is a part of our democratic process and it’s a massive moment for our members,” said the source. “The fact that a group of political parties have got together to try to undermine this for another political party doesn’t reflect well on them.

“The public will see a broken, zombie parliament determined to block everything, whether it is Brexit or the party conference.”

The government’s recess motion was tabled just two days after the Supreme Court forced the reconvening of the Commons by ruling that Mr Johnson’s unprecedented five-week prorogation of parliament was unlawful.

And the No 10 response leaves no doubt that Mr Johnson regards MPs’s refusal to close Westminster’s doors once again as an act of revenge for the earlier closure.

His apparent determination to deliver his leader’s speech to the faithful in Manchester means that he will miss what would have been only his second session of PMQs since taking office two months ago, and will be regarded by many MPs as a snub to parliament.

He is likely to send a minister – probably first secretary of state Dominic Raab – to answer MPs’ questions in his place.

Recess differs from prorogation in that parliamentary business such as the tabling of questions can continue during MPs’ absence from the House, and bills which have not completed their passage through parliament do not fail.

Its denial to the Tories raises the prospect of MPs having to shuttle by train between London and Manchester to fulfil their party and parliamentary duties.

Immediately after the defeat, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg announced Commons business for next week, which included the second reading on Wednesday of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which had been dropped as a result of Mr Johnson’s abortive prorogation.

Relatively uncontroversial measures were listed for Monday and Tuesday, in an apparent effort to minimise disruption to the Conservative conference.

Mr Rees-Mogg also issued an offer to opposition parties to allow them Commons time on any day of the coming week to table a vote of no confidence in the government and trigger an election – something they are refusing to do because of the fear it would allow Mr Johnson to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

It appears that the 17-vote defeat was increased by at least one MP opposing the government because of anger over Mr Johnson’s approach in Wednesday’s fiery debate over the court ruling.

Independent MP Nick Boles, who quit the Tories over Brexit, said: “I had planned to abstain on today’s motion for a short recess during the Conservative Party conference. I’m not sure if it’s the effect he intended but after the PM’s behaviour yesterday I think it is crucial that he be held to account at PMQs next Wednesday. So I will vote against.”

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister is disappointed that MPs have taken this decision. For many years it has been the case that parliament has been in recess so that parties can hold their party conferences.”

The spokesman declined to say whether Mr Johnson would attend his second session of PMQs next week, or would send another minister in his place.

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