By claiming that Boris Johnson asked him to do anything that “wasn’t right” during conversations over the former prime minister’s honors list, Rishi Sunak has waded deeper into the Tory civil war.
The Prime Minister claimed that a former Conservative friend pressed him to “make promises to people” or “do something I wasn’t prepared to do” by overruling the committee that evaluates candidates for the House of Lords.
“I didn’t think it was right and if people don’t like that, then tough,” Mr Sunak said on Monday in his first comments since Mr Johnson dramatically resigned as an MP.
In response, a supporter of the former prime minister claimed that Mr. Sunak had “secretly blocked” the peerages of Nadine Dorries, a former culture secretary, and others.
Downing Street published Mr. Johnson’s resignation honors list on Friday without including the names of his major backers, which also included former Cop26 president Sir Alok Sharma and former minister Nigel Adams. This sparked an escalating verbal spat.
The Privileges Committee, which was looking into whether Mr. Johnson lied to Parliament about partygate, was preparing to find that he had broken the rules and recommend a suspension, which could lead to a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency. Hours later, Mr. Johnson announced that he would resign as an MP.
Additionally, Mr. Adams and Ms. Dorries announced their resignations from the Commons, forcing the Prime Minister to face three difficult by-elections at a time when his party is trailing in the polls.
Mr. Sunak publicly attacked Mr. Johnson, claiming that Mr. Johnson wanted him to disregard the recommendations of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac).
“Boris Johnson asked me to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do because I didn’t think it was right,” the Prime Minister said when asked after a speech at the London Tech Week conference.
“That was to either overrule the Holac committee or to make promises to people.
“Now, I wasn’t prepared to do that. I didn’t think it was right and if people don’t like that, then tough.”
Mr Sunak said he had vowed to “do things differently” when he entered No 10, adding: “And that’s what I’m doing.”
There have been rumors that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Sunak came to a “gentleman’s agreement” wherein he would approve the honors list while allowing the MPs to undergo another Holac review later on, sparing them from having to resign immediately.
According to a Downing Street source, Mr. Johnson has been made aware by the Cabinet Office that there is no re-vetting procedure.
However, Mr. Johnson’s supporters claim that his successor violated the agreement, which has heightened tensions rather than bringing an end to hostilities.
An ally told the PA news agency: “Rishi secretly blocked the peerages for Nadine and others.
“He refused to ask for them to undergo basic checks that could have taken only a few weeks or even days.
“That is how he kept them off the list – without telling Boris Johnson.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it is “entirely untrue to say that anyone from No 10 attempted to remove or change” the list approved by Holac, understand to have been finalised in February.
The group, which Mr. Johnson himself overturned when in No. 10 about Peter Cruddas, a Tory contributor, receiving a peerage, has acknowledged it did not endorse eight of the candidates put forth by the former leader.
Insisting that neither Mr. Sunak nor Downing Street changed names from Mr. Johnson’s peerages proposal, government officials.
Michael Gove, a cabinet minister, emphasized on Monday that the “appropriate procedure” and the “correct precedent” were adhered to.
On Saturday, Downing Street decided to give Mr. Sunak the approved names of Holac Chairman Lord Bew.
The letter, dated February 5, includes a redacted name of a person who made the “personal decision to withdraw themselves” along with the seven peerages that were revealed on Friday.
The Privileges Committee will meet on Monday to complete and debate publishing its investigative findings into Mr. Johnson, who has called the inquiry a “witch hunt.”
The investigation is believed to have found that Mr. Johnson lied to Parliament when he claimed that Covid regulations were followed in Downing Street despite the fact that drinking parties were held there while social distancing laws were in effect.
According to reports, the panel was prepared to recommend at least a 10-day ban, perhaps triggering a by-election in Mr. Johnson’s west London district.
Mr. Johnson compared the committee to a “kangaroo court” and accused it of being biased.
According to the antiquated procedure of being selected to be the Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds or of the Manor of Northstead, the resigned MPs have yet to legally trigger their departure from the Commons.