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Ministers not involved in Boris Johnson’s referral to police over new lockdown breach allegations, says Justice Secretary – UK Politics Live | Policy

Good morning. Partygate is back in the news, and while Rishi Sunak has tried hard to distance himself from Boris Johnson, the latest revelations (summarized here) still pose a serious problem for the current Prime Minister, for two reasons.

First, and obviously, every time partygate hits the headlines, it reminds voters why they turned against this government. Some 80% of people think the country needs a new team of leaders. Sunak would like people to think a new team is in charge, but this is just a reminder that Johnson is not gone and his supporters are in the government benches.

Second, in a bizarre development, some conservatives seem to have decided that the person to blame for all of this is not Johnson himself, but Sunak. Johnson himself helped get this theory off the ground when he released a statement suggesting he was a victim. A spokesperson for him said:

Whatever the political aim, it is clear that a last-ditch attempt is underway to prolong the Privileges Committee’s investigation as it draws to a close and to undermine Mr Johnson.

This has fueled claims that he is the victim of a seam, which is sympathetically reported in Tory newspapers this morning.

In the past, Brexiteer Tories have argued that partygate, and stories like the revelation of the speed awareness course on Suella Braverman, are proof that a shadowy, remnant, establishment ‘blob’ is leading a vendetta against Johnson. But now, according to some of the journalists who follow the Conservative party more closely, some conservatives have decided that Sunak was responsible for allowing this to happen.

These are from the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope last night.

A senior Tory source tells me: “There is now an open witch hunt against members of the Conservative Party right.
“The party leadership must end this immediately.
“Active conversations are ongoing between MPs about how to respond to this and nothing is on the table.”

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) May 23, 2023

A former Conservative cabinet minister texted me tonight: “I didn’t really believe in ‘blob’ until now.
“But the events of the last few days – the repeated briefing against Suella and now tonight’s action against Boris – are starting to make me think again. 1/2

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) May 23, 2023

Former Cabinet Minister [continued]”If the Prime Minister’s team is somehow encouraging all of this, they must back down quickly, and if not, they must take tough action for once against officials who flee against the ministers.” 2/2

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) May 23, 2023

And these are from the Times Steven Swinford This morning.


Boris Johnson sides with the bet and warns they will obstruct Rishi Sunak’s government unless he steps in to stop what they see as a ‘witch hunt’

They say it’s the ‘last straw’ for Johnson and warn MPs and members who support the former PM will start organizing

—Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) May 24, 2023

Allied Boris:

‘Boris supported the government but this act is the final straw

“There are a growing number of MPs who want the party leadership to act to stop these witch hunts and a group of MPs will meet today to consider the options. Meanwhile, members across the country are organising’

—Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) May 24, 2023

Boris Johnson’s allies say the decision to return him to the police has been approved by senior ministers

They said ministers had direct knowledge of what was going on

This is denied by the cabinet office and the government, who claim there was no ministerial involvement

—Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) May 24, 2023

Whoever makes these claims has ventured deep into lopsided conspiracy theory territory (Sunak has no possible motive for wanting to smear Johnson – his political credibility has waned over the past six months, and almost no one seriously thinks that he is a credible leadership challenger. But the very fact that people in the ruling party are saying these things is extraordinary.

This morning Alex Chalk, the new Justice Secretary, has been on a media tour, and he has tried to shoot down at least one of the theories being circulated by Johnson’s supporters – that ministers were involved in a decision to adopt the new briefing suggestion that Johnson broke lockdown laws to Checkers to the police. Here’s what Chalk told LBC about what happened:

A Covid investigation is underway. During this procedure, the documentation must be cleaned or reviewed by lawyers to ensure that it can be disclosed in the normal way. Material was discovered that was passed on to the public service.

The civil service considered that in accordance with their code, and without ministerial intervention, I want to make this absolutely clear, it was then passed on to the police. From a public service perspective, if she had sat there and deleted it, people would have criticized her. If they passed it on, that will also raise questions. Ultimately, whether it was the right judgment to do so depends on what’s in those documents.

And I haven’t seen those documents. It is therefore very difficult to pass judgment and I am afraid that it will have to take its normal course.

I will post more of his interviews shortly.

Here is the program for the day.

9:45 a.m.: Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, speaks at the WSJ CEO Summit in London.

Noon: Rishi Sunak takes on Keir Starmer in PMQ.

Noon: Humza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland, answers questions from the organizers of the Holyrood Committee.

After 12:30 p.m.: MPs debate Lords’ amendments to the successful EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

2pm (UK time): Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, delivers a speech in Washington.

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