'Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish:' Boris Johnson hits back as Tory honours meltdown descends into civil war

12 June 2023, 11:03 | Updated: 12 June 2023, 16:42

Johnson wanted ‘something I wasn’t prepared to do’ says Sunak over honours row

By StephenRigley

Boris Johnson has accused Rishi Sunak of talking 'rubbish' as the Tory Party civil war over peerages escalated.

Rishi Sunak, in outspoken remarks, said he was not prepared to overrule the House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac), or make promises to allies of Boris Johnson about them becoming peers.

He said he had been asked by Mr Johnson “to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do.”

He said he refused because he “didn’t think it was right.”

But Mr Johnson hit back today, telling LBC: “Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish. To honour these peerages it was not necessary to overrule Holac - but simply to ask them to renew their vetting, which was a mere formality.”

Later Mr Johnson formally resigned as an MP.

It comes amid a row with former prime minister Mr Johnson and his allies, who blame Downing Street for Conservative MPs failing to appear on his resignation honours list on Friday despite them being nominated for the House of Lords.

Appearing at the London Tech Week conference for his first public remarks since his predecessor's decision to quit as an MP, Mr Sunak said: "Boris Johnson asked me to do something that I wasn't prepared to do because I didn't think it was right."

"That was to either overrule the Holac (House of Lords Appointments Commission) 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.

"When I got this job I said I was going to do things differently because I wanted to change politics and that's what I'm doing.

"And I'm also keen to make sure that we change how our country works and that's what I'm here talking about today: making sure that we can grow our economy, that we can maintain our leadership in the innovative industries of the future."

Earlier today, levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove diplomatically described Boris as a “significant figure in the history of our times” and expressed “sadness at his passing” as an MP.

Mr Gove said: “I think him for the role he played in the pandemic, on Ukraine and on Brexit.

“I wouldn’t presume to offer Boris any advices for the future. I continue to respect Boris and all that he’s achieved.”

Mr Gove added that within government there was: “calm, focused, delivery oriented hard work going on every day.”

Boris Johnson's sister told LBC last night that "apart from Brexit and lockdown Boris was a superb and underrated PM".

PM Rishi Sunak Speaks At London Tech Week
PM Rishi Sunak Speaks At London Tech Week. Picture: Getty
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson. Picture: Alamy

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Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, ex-minister Nigel Adams and Cop26 president Sir Alok Sharma were reportedly put forward by Mr Johnson for peerages.

Ms Dorries and Mr Adams have resigned as MPs since being omitted, giving Mr Sunak the headache of three separate by-elections, with Mr Johnson also quitting over complaints about a Commons partygate inquiry.

Government figures have insisted that neither Mr Sunak nor Downing Street removed names from Mr Johnson's peerages submission, with Michael Gove stressing on Monday that the "appropriate procedure" and the correct "precedent" was followed.

Downing Street took the decision on Saturday to declassify Holac chairman Lord Bew's approved names to Mr Sunak.

The letter, dated February 5, contains the seven peerages announced on Friday, along with a redacted name of a person who took the "personal decision to withdraw themselves".

Holac has confirmed it did not support eight peerage nominees put forward by Mr Johnson.

The row over the Lords appointments comes as the Privileges Committee is set to meet to conclude its inquiry into whether the former prime minister misled Parliament over No 10 lockdown parties.

MPs have pledged to continue the investigation process despite Mr Johnson's Commons exit amid accusations of a "witch hunt".

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The panel is set to meet in Westminster on Monday with a view to deciding when to publish its report.

There has been speculation that the seven-person committee, which is chaired by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, could release its findings in a matter of days.

Mr Gove said on Monday that any vote on the findings is a "matter for the House of Commons", as he appeared to distance the Government from any role in the response to the inquiry.

The probe is thought to have ruled that Mr Johnson lied to Parliament when he told MPs Covid rules were followed in Downing Street despite boozy parties taking place while social distancing restrictions were in place.

Reports suggest the panel was set to recommend at least a 10-day suspension, reaching the threshold for a by-election to be potentially triggered in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

Mr Johnson accused the committee of "bias" and likened it to a "kangaroo court".

The Privileges Committee, in response, said Mr Johnson "impugned the integrity of the House" with his attack.

While the former Tory Party leader will no longer be affected by a decision to suspend him, given that he has resigned from the green benches, the committee could choose to apply other sanctions.

Former Commons speaker John Bercow was banned last year from being permitted a pass to gain entry to the parliamentary estate after being found guilty of bullying by Westminster's Independent Expert Panel.

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