A vote on a Commons investigation into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate has been dismissed as Labor “shenanigans” by a cabinet minister.
The government is attempting to delay the matter today by tabling an amendment to Labour’s motion – which would defer a vote on a parliamentary probe until a police investigation into parties is complete.
Asked about Thursday’s vote, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi claimed that a delayed vote was “the right chronology” – but he also dismissed the Labor move as “petty politics”.
“The right chronology is to wait for the police to complete their investigation and the full Sue Gray report to publish,” he told Sky News. “That is the right way of doing this.”
Urging Tory MPs to back a delay, Mr Zahawi added: “If you want to play politics with this, then the shenanigans that Labor are attempting today is the route… The amendment is the right way to follow due process.”
Fearing a rebellion, it is understood that all Conservative MPs are being whipped to support the amendment on Thursday, which would delay a vote on whether the PM should be referred to the privileges committee.
Labor claimed that any Tory MP supporting the amendment would be “voting for a cover up”. Sir Keir Starmer’s party says it will plaster the names of Tory MPs who delay the inquiry across local elections’ leaflets and adverts.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the government amendment was “trying to provide cover for Boris Johnson to try and distract and deflect, and allow [Tory] MPs to go back to their constituents and wash their hands of this.”
Mr Streeting said many Tory MPs were “agonising” about this – but said he feared they will “troop through the lobby like lemmings today because they don’t have the courage to stand up for what is right”.
Mr Johnson has urged Tory MPs to back a government amendment today – saying MPs should have the “full facts” before deciding whether to refer his conduct to the privileges committee.
“I’m very keen for every possible form of scrutiny and the House of Commons can do whatever it wants to do,” he told reporters in India, where he is on an official trip. “They (MPs) must do whatever they want. That is their prerogative.”
The PM added: “But all I would say is I don’t think that should happen until the investigation is completed. I think what people should have is the full facts.”
Asked why he would not submit himself to a privleges committee inquiry if he had nothing to hide, Mr Johnson said: “I think the best thing is if the [police] investigation is concluded.”
Asked whether he knowingly or unknowingly misled parliament, Mr Johnson said: “Of course not”.
The prime minister also said that “of course” he would lead his party into the next general election.
Mr Johnson’s aides are braced for him to receive multiple ends, with the PM thought to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.
Former Conservative minister Andrew Mitchell suggested on Wednesday evening that the PM could be referred to the privileges committee without a vote.
I have told ITV’s Peston programme: “I think the House of Commons will agree to refer it to the privileges committee … If you look down the years, references to the privileges committee have normally gone through on the nod.”
Tory MP Craig Whittaker repeated his call for Mr Johnson to go on Thursday. “An apology doesn’t constitute taking responsibility – and that’s why I’ve asked him to resign,” he told BBC Breakfast.
He added: “About a dozen Conservative MPs who have come out publicly and said the prime minister should resign. I suspect there’s probably more, but are keeping their powder dry to see how this all develops.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Tory MPs “should do their patriotic duty and get this man out” – claiming that they would be “guilty by association” if they did not.