Boris Johnson has been referred to a Commons committee and declared a liar in the House of Commons for misleading MPs over partygate.
In a day of drama Tory MPs abandoned their defense of the Prime Minister and told Johnson “the gig’s up”, leaving his fate in the balance once again.
Backbench Tories made it clear they would refuse to follow orders to vote against a Labor motion subjecting their leader to scrutiny and shame over his accounts of rule-breaking in Downing Street.
As a result Conservative party managers u-turned and dropped their face-saving amendment and allowed the Prime Minister to be investigated by the Commons Privileges committee.
In a sign of how the Prime Minister’s reputation has been brought low Johnson was called a liar in the House of Commons by Ian Blackford without any consequences for SNP leader.
Blackford, who has previously been ejected from the chamber for using the description of the Prime Minister, was not challenged by the Speaker at the opening of the five and a half hour debate.
The absent Prime Minister, who is on a trip to India, was pummeled by opposition MPs as expected.
But in a signal that the balance had tipped against Johnson within his own party, arch-Brexiteer Tory MP Steve Baker turned against the man he had helped elect as Tory leader.
Baker said Johnson had shown “contrition” on Tuesday but that it “only lasted as long as it took to get out of the headmaster’s study.”
He went on: “The reason that he is not long gone is because removing a sitting Prime Minister is an extremely serious matter, and goodness knows, I’ve had something to do with that.”
He added: “The Prime Minister now should be long gone. I’ll certainly vote for this motion. But really, the Prime Minister should just know the gig’s up.”
Some 4,000 miles away, in an ill-tempered interview with Sky’s Beth Rigby at the Akshardham Temple in Ahmedabad, Johnson attempted to explain how the government dropped its amendment because it did not want to look as if it had something to hide.
He said: “People were saying it looks like we are trying to stop stuff. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want people to be able to say that. I don’t want this thing to endlessly go on. But, I have absolutely nothing, frankly, to hide.”
He added that, until the police investigation is over, the ongoing discussion of the partygate controversy was “not very useful”.
In a moment of slight relief for the Prime Minister the Met police announced it will not issue partygate ends to Downing Street until after May’s local government elections.
Scotland Yard said there would be no further updates on partygate ends for the next two weeks while council election campaigns are fought across the UK.
A Met spokesman said: “While the investigation will continue during the pre-election period, due to the restrictions around communicating before the May local elections, we will not provide further updates until after 5 May.”
Downing Street is braced for the Prime Minister to be slapped with further fines for breaching lockdown after he, the chancellor and his wife Carrie were among the 50 fixed penalty notices issued last week for breaking his own emergency pandemic rules.
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