Rishi Sunak will reportedly skip a debate over the scathing report that found Boris Johnson lied about Partygate as anger over the scandal reignited after a newly released video.
The motion on the Privileges Committee’s findings comes as Scotland Yard “reviews” footage of a Christmas 2020 gathering at Conservative Party headquarters.
Party secretary Michael Gove, who has apologized for the video showing Tory staff dancing and joking about the Covid restrictions, will also abstain from the vote.
He said it was up to each individual MP to decide their own course of action regarding the committee’s findings – thereby giving other Conservatives the opportunity to follow suit and potentially avoid a vote.
Whether or not there is a vote on the report on Monday – the former Prime Minister’s birthday, incidentally – will depend in part on how many Johnson loyalists choose to reject the report.
The former prime minister urged his allies not to fight back, arguing the sanctions would have no practical effect, although critics argue the support he received would have been scant anyway.
Tory MPs will be given a free vote, but Mr Johnson’s allies warned they could fight with their local parties to stay on as candidates at the next election if they support the motion.
Senior backbencher Bill Cash writes in the Sunday telegraphsaid he would appear to vote against the results, citing the former prime minister’s “historic achievements”.
But with at least three potentially damaging by-elections looming following the resignations of Mr Johnson, Nigel Adams and David Warburton, many could opt to spend Monday campaigning instead.
No 10 has declined to say whether the Prime Minister will appear to support the report, but he will receive a foreign leader at Downing Street on Monday, which could give him an excuse not to attend.
The times And The Telegraph Newspapers report that he is unlikely to vote on the committee’s findings.
In a scathing 108-page report, the cross-party group of MPs recommended a 90-day suspension over Mr Johnson’s “repeated contempt” of Parliament had he not pre-emptively resigned. It also states that he should be denied the parliamentary pass, which is normally given to former MPs.
The former Conservative leader has dismissed the committee’s findings, which he likened to a “kangaroo court”, as smacks of “bias” – attacks that led him to recommend tougher sanctions against him.
If the report is not rejected, it could simply be approved by the House of Commons.
The sanctions proposed by the committee are expected to be passed by a majority of Tories anyway, with only a relatively small group of Johnson loyalists expected to oppose the report’s findings.
The debate comes after Sunday MirroI received video of what appears to be Conservative staff dancing and joking about Covid restrictions at the height of the pandemic.
Footage of the event, which took place when indoor gatherings were banned and people across the country were separated from family and friends, represents another setback for Mr Sunak’s efforts to inherit the legacy of his penultimate predecessor.
There have also been renewed allegations from opposition parties that the Prime Minister is “weak” for not interfering on the issue of Mr Johnson’s resignation.
The gathering was attended by both former London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and Tory adviser Ben Mallet, who were each awarded a peerage and an OBE.
Mr Gove told the BBC on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the couple must not be deprived of their honor as rules allow outgoing Prime Ministers to make such appointments.
The Metropolitan Police, who previously investigated the gathering and claimed there was “insufficient evidence to refute the version of events provided by the participants,” said they were reviewing the video.
A police spokesman said: “We are aware of the recordings and are considering it.”
CCHQ said “formal disciplinary action” was taken against four staffers seconded to Mr Bailey’s mayoral campaign for the “illegal” event.
Mr Bailey had reportedly left the gathering when the video was taken, having previously apologized for his involvement.