Zahawi claims Tory MPs delaying inquiry into PM out of respect for British tradition of ‘due process’
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, was speaking for the government this morning on the broadcast interview round. Asked why the government is telling its MPs to vote to delay the decision about holding an inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate, he claimed this was because ministers were acting in accordance with “due process” – a tradition for which Britain is respected around the world, he implied. He told Sky News:
I think the right thing to do is to follow due process. The world looks at this country for its values and due process.
What do I mean by that? The prime minister came to parliament, as he promised he would, he made a full apology and explained that he made a mistake.
But, in his mind, when he attended the cabinet room for that nine-minute birthday celebration, he didn’t think he was breaking the rules which is why he didn’t think he misled parliament.
Today, we’ve put down an amendment to say actually, the right way to do this, to follow due process, is to wait for the police inquiry to conclude, to have the full publication of the Cabinet Office report, the Sue Gray report, and then parliament can decide to put it to the privileges committee. That’s the right way to do this.
This argument will surprise the government’s critics who have long argued that one of the defining features of Boris Johnson’s government is how little respect it has for due process. The former prime minister John Major is one of the many people to have made this argument, in a speech earlier this year.
MPs to debate holding inquiry into claims PM misled parliament over Partygate
Good morning. MPs will today debate the opposition proposal to hold a privileges committee inquiry into claims that Boris Johnson misled parliament over Partygate. At one point it was assumed that the government would just vote this down but, partly because No 10 has realised that would be a PR disaster, and partly because the government whips were not confident of winning (because many Tory MPs were not willing to vote for a PR disaster), the government will instead try to amend the motion to postpone the decision about holding an inquiry.
It means that Tory MPs will be able to vote for the government and argue that, technically, they are not voting to block an inquiry. But in presentational terms the outcome may be almost as bad, because it will look as if they are voting to block an inquiry. Here is our overnight story.
Speaking to journalists on his trip to India, Johnson argued that the issues he was focusing on on his visit (trade, investment etc) were actually a lot more important to voters. He said: “I think politics has taught me one thing, which is that you’re better off talking and focussing on the things that matter and the things that make a real difference to the electorate, and not about politicians themselves.”
As a general rule, this is probably right, although it comes close to minimising the significance of Partygate – something he spent all Tuesday afternoon in the Commons claiming he was not doing.
Johnson also insisted he would lead his party into the next election. Asked by journalists if he would fight the next election, he replied: “Of course, yes.” Asked if anything would cause him to resign, he replied: “Not a lot springs to mind at the moment.”
In one sense this is unremarkable, because it is what you would expect any prime minister to say, on almost any occasion. But for those Tory MPs who have been saying, in private or in public, that they don’t want Johnson to resign now, but that they want him out before the next general election, it is reminder that he is not going to go easily.
Here is the agenda for the day.
Around 11.30am:Keir Starmer opens the Commons debate on holding a privileges committee inquiry into whether Johnson misled parliament about Partygate.
12pm: Nicola Sturgeon takes first minister’s questions in the Scottish parliament.
12pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
At 5pm at the latest: MPs vote on the privileges committee motion.
And Johnson is in India today. He is due to record clips for broadcasters in the morning and at around lunchtime, UK time.
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