GMB debate: Should Boris Johnson be stripped of all perks?
Leading Conservatives have called on MPs to put the Boris Johnson “psychodrama” behind them and focus on rescuing the inflation-wracked economy.
Britons are braced this week for a further interest rate rise which threatens to push mortgage costs even higher as the cost of living crisis continues.
The Tory party will face more turmoil on Monday when MPs debate the scathing privileges committee which concluded former Prime Minister Mr Johnson would face a 90-day suspension if he was still an MP.
A senior Conservative MP warned that the party faces “Mutually Assured Destruction” if in-fighting does not stop.
A minister said: “People out there are sick of Conservative party psychodrama.
They’re worried about their mortgage and rent costs, the price of food and essentials, and what the future will be like for their kids.
“We need to come together now and put all our efforts into strengthening the economy and giving people hope for the future.”
Exclusive Omnisis polling for the Sunday Express shows just 24 percent of people want Mr Johnson to return to politics, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) saying he should not. However, half of likely Tory voters would welcome a return by the now-former MP to the political fray.
Tensions flared between Mr Johnson and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over who would be included in his resignation honours list.
Mr Johnson reportedly pushed for his father, Stanley, to be given a knighthood but he did not make the final list.
The polling shows that just nine percent of people think his father should have been knighted, with 71 percent saying he should not receive this honour.
With Mr Johnson out of Westminster and likely to be denied a pass to enter the Palace, MPs hope that factional battles will end.
Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt urged colleagues to focus on reviving the economy, controlling immigration and keeping Labour out of power.
He said: “When people are kept awake at night worrying about the cost of living and mortgages it is our duty to unite and work tirelessly in pursuit of prosperity. People want a strong economy and strong borders, and if we can control inflation and control immigration we can keep the Labour threat at bay.
“This is no time for self-indulgent politicking. MPs should grow up and focus on the priorities of their constituents.”
The calls for unity come amid warnings that from 2024 people remortgaging their homes will pay an average of £2,900 a year more.
Mr Sunak has made halving inflation this year to “ease the cost of living and give people financial security” one of his top priorities. But Harriet Baldwin, the Conservative chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, cast doubt on him meeting this target.
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When asked if she could see him delivering on his inflation goal she told GB News: “It doesn’t feel like that yet, does it? No.”
Former Business Secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg condemned the Bank of England for not acting earlier to dampen inflation. He suggested the Government could consider reintroducing mortgage interest tax relief.
He said: “The failure of the independent Bank of England is absolutely appalling. The inflation that we’re getting is because they were slow off the mark, because they didn’t pay attention to the job they were supposed to be doing.”
Sir Jacob expects that Monday’s debate on the privileges committee report will be a “damp squib”.
A key supporter of Mr Johnson said if a vote is forced on the report it is “extremely unlikely” that Conservatives will take part. Tories on different sides of the party want MPs to unite to put the spotlight on their efforts to fix the economy and not internal divisions.
Former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers – who hopes the Conservatives can make use of Mr Johnson’s talents at the next election – said: “What matters is the economy and the cost of living. That’s what people care most about and we have to ensure this is our absolute number one priority.
“That means leaving the rows and division behind and moving on from the events of the past few days.”
A Government source said: “Normal people only care about us halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats. That’s what we’re about, the rest is noise that will not put us off our stride.”
Former minister James Morris, the MP for Halesowen in the West Midlands, said: “People in my constituency want us to focus relentlessly on creating jobs, investing in skills, dealing with inflation and growing the economy… Everything else is a distraction from those priorities.”
A senior Conservative called for an end to the battles between supporters of Mr Johnson and the PM, warning: “This absurd war between Team Boris and Team Rishi simply has to stop. It’s like one of those nuclear war games, which started with conventional weapons, then escalated to tactical nukes and now both sides are taking out each other’s cities, with complete disregard for their mutual casualties.
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“For the sake of the Conservative [arty they both need to de-escalate – and quickly – before we are all left standing in the electoral rubble. If things continue on their present course Conservatives face Mutually Assured Destruction.”
Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski, who said he “backed Boris to the last second”, also called for unity.
He said: “We have had the resignations and disagreements and I very much hope and expect the Conservative Party now will rally round Rishi Sunak and get ready for a Herculean battle of wills with the socialists.”
Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said the restoration of economic stability and prosperity must “absolutely” be the priority.
He said: “Boris Johnson’s resignation from Parliament needs to draw a firm line over the past and some of the less distinguished parts of his legacy which constantly bounce back into the headlines to derail the current PM need to become history. All Conservative MPs need to remember they were elected as Conservative MPs, not Boris Johnson Party MPs, and get behind the Government to sort out the problems of all our constituents which is what they elect us and expect us to do.”
There remains anger in the Conservative grassroots at the privileges committee report.
Claire Bullivant of the Conservative Democratic Organisation said: “Imagine if it was your mother, husband or child who was subjected to a trial that had no proper due process, where laws were made retrospectively and their enemies appointed themselves as their judge, jury and executioner.”
Former Labour Brexiteer Baroness Hoey said there will be many members of the public “who just smell something not quite right”.
Warning against ruling out a comeback for Mr Johnson, she said: “I would never ever write Boris off. I think the Conservative party will live to regret the way they have treated someone who gave them their biggest majority since Thatcher.”
A Tory MP in a former Labour “red wall” seat suspects Mr Johnson may one day be back.
He said: “There might be a time when we’re reaching out for him because he reaches parts of the electorate that others just don’t.”
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