Partygate: Government drops order to Tory MPs to delay investigation vote - what PM said about resigning

Tory MPs will be given a free vote on Labour’s motion seeking a parliamentary investigation into claims Boris Johnson lied about the partygate scandal

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Tory MPs will be given a free vote on Labour’s motion seeking a parliamentary investigation into claims Boris Johnson lied about the partygate scandal

The government has dropped its attempt to delay a vote on whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over lockdown-breaking parties.

Tory MPs will no longer be whipped to block the investigation regarding the partygate scandal in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Labour had tabled a motion to refer the Prime Minister to the Privileges Committee over his initial claims that no lockdown rules had been broken.

Conservative MPs had been told to support an amendment delaying a vote on the motion until after separate investigations by the police and civil servant Sue Gray.

Will the vote go ahead?

MPs have now been told they will be given a free vote on the motion and the amendment has been dropped, according to Commons Leader Mark Spencer.

Asked about the whipping arrangements for Thursday afternoon’s business, Mr Spencer said: “The Prime Minister has indicated he’s keen for the House to decide on the business later today.

“The vote on the unamended House business will be a free vote to all Conservative MPs and that’ll be the case this afternoon.”

A senior Government source said Boris Johnson was “happy to face” a parliamentary inquiry after Tory MPs were granted a free vote on whether he should.

The source said: “The Prime Minister has always been clear that he’s happy to face whatever inquiries Parliament sees fit and is happy for the House to decide how it wishes to proceed today and therefore will not be whipping Conservative MPs.

“They are free to vote according to how they believe we should move forward on this.

“We tabled an amendment last night because we wanted to be explicit about ensuring Sue Gray is able to complete and publish her report without any further delay, as well as allow the Metropolitan Police to conclude their investigations.

“We now recognise that – in practice – this is almost certainly likely to be the case and therefore we are happy for the Labour motion to go through, if that is the will of the House.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle confirmed MPs will be voting on Labour’s original motion, noting: “I can inform the House that although I’ve selected the amendment in the name of the minister for the Cabinet Office (Michael Ellis), I understand it is now the intention of the Government not to move that amendment.”

Labour said it was “humiliating” for the Conservatives after the party’s MPs were initially ordered to support the blocking move in a vote today.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “This is humiliating for Conservative MPs who were being pressured to vote for the Government’s cover-up amendment.

“The Government knew they couldn’t win this, the Prime Minister is bang to rights.

“Tory MPs should do the right thing, respect the sacrifices that their constituents made during the pandemic, and vote in the national interest.”

Will Boris Johnson resign over partygate?

The Prime Minister, who is in India, attempted to avoid discussing the partygate scandal on the plane to Gujarat.

Asked on the plane whether he would fight the next general election, the Prime Minister replied: “Of course.”

When asked whether there were any circumstances in which he would consider resigning, Mr Johnson said: “Not a lot that spring to mind at the moment.

“But if you want to sketch some out I’m sure you could entertain your viewers with some imaginary circumstances in which I might have to resign, but I don’t propose to go into them, I can’t think of them right now.”

Mr Johnson continued: “Politics has taught me one thing which is you’re better off talking and focusing on the things that matter, the things that make a real difference to the electorate and not about politicians themselves.”

Asked if that meant partygate did not matter to the public, he said: “You’re better off talking about things other than politicians themselves, is my view.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford have all called for the Prime Minister to resign.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper also said the PM must go.

Mr Johnson’s aides are braced for him to receive multiple fines, having already been handed one fixed-penalty notice for the gathering on his 56th birthday.

He is thought to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.