Boris Johnson’s departure from the House of Commons has not quelled the escalating acrimony surrounding the issue of the blocked appointments to the House of Lords.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, addressing a tech conference in London, responded to accusations that he had hindered these appointments.
Sunak revealed that Johnson had urged him to take action he was unwilling to pursue, namely overriding the vetting panel responsible for screening nominees for the House of Lords.
“Boris Johnson asked me to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do because I didn’t believe it was right,” Sunak stated firmly. He emphasized his refusal to either overturn the committee’s decision or make promises to individuals.
“I wasn’t willing to do that. As I mentioned, I didn’t think it was right. And if people have a problem with that, then tough,” Sunak asserted.
The panel responsible for vetting House of Lords nominations confirmed that it had rejected eight out of Johnson’s nominees, representing nearly half of them. However, a close ally of Boris Johnson accused Prime Minister Sunak of covertly impeding the peerage appointments by intentionally avoiding the necessary checks, which could have been swiftly completed within weeks or even days.
One crucial question remains for Sunak: why did he not immediately withdraw support from Johnson by removing the whip if he believed that Johnson had requested something inappropriate?
The vetting process for House of Lords nominees remains shrouded in confidentiality and partial obscurity. Notably, the Prime Minister and No 10 vehemently counter Johnson’s account of events. However, the repercussions extend far beyond a mere verbal dispute. Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Conservative MP Nigel Adams, both anticipated to receive peerages, were left disappointed. Following Johnson’s lead, they have announced their resignations as MPs, triggering by-elections and further upheaval within the Conservative Party.
While Rishi Sunak has often strived to avoid conflicts within his own party since assuming the role of Prime Minister, he was notably candid this morning, accusing Boris Johnson of urging actions he was unwilling to take, such as overriding the established vetting process and deviating from customary practices.
Boris Johnson’s camp responded furiously, accusing Sunak of dishonesty and deliberately obstructing the peerage appointments through deliberate delays and procrastination in conducting the necessary checks.
Most of Westminster had moved on from the controversies that plagued the Conservative Party last year, which led to Johnson’s downfall and significantly disrupted the party. However, it seems that Boris Johnson is prepared to revive that never ending drama, inevitably causing unease for Rishi Sunak.
The Privileges Committee is set to convene today to finalize its report on the Partygate scandal, the catalyst for Johnson’s resignation.
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