Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson exchanged accusations on Monday as the row between the prime minister and his predecessor over his resigning honors list worsened.
Sunak claimed that Johnson had asked him to intervene and wave a long list of his allies to the House of Lords, to which Johnson angrily replied that his successor was “talking rubbish”.
Sunak addressed the row head-on, saying Johnson had asked him to reverse a decision by the House of Lords (Holac) Nominations Committee to block some of the names Johnson had proposed moving forward for peerages.
“When it comes to awards and Boris Johnson, Boris Johnson asked me to do something that I was not willing to do because I didn’t think it was right, to override the Holac commission or to make promises to people,” Sunak said . .
Holac has confirmed it has turned down eight peerage candidates put forward in honor of Johnson’s resignation, which was announced on Friday. Johnson’s allies have claimed that Sunak broke a promise to wave the entire list – a charge denied by Downing Street.
“I wasn’t willing to do that because I didn’t think that was right,” Sunak said at the London Tech Week conference.
“And if people don’t like that, then it’s difficult. When I got this job, I said I was going to do things differently because I was going to change politics.”
Later on Monday, Johnson publicly hit back, claiming: “Rishi Sunak is talking nonsense. To honor these peerages, it was not necessary to override Holac, but simply to ask them to renew their vetting, which was just a formality.
In response to Johnson’s comments, Downing Street said it “would not go into more detail”.
Two former MPs who had expected to receive peerages from Johnson – Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams – have since left parliament, leading to an impending by-election.
Johnson stepped down as an MP on Friday night ahead of the release of a report from the cross-party Commons Privileges Committee that is expected to heavily criticize him for misleading the Commons when he said he was unaware of celebrations taking place during Covid-10 in number 10 were held. 19 closures.
The committee met on Monday to finalize its report on whether Johnson lied to parliament about the partygate affair, amid heightened security arrangements for its members.
Tensions over the report rose after Johnson called the Tory-majority committee a “kangaroo court” and claimed he was the victim of “a witch hunt”.
Michael Gove, secretary to the top, told the BBC Today program: “I regret the fact that they (committee members) are now in a position where, as reported, they have had to seek and have received extra security. I extend my condolences to them and their families.”
The commission’s report is expected this week. Johnson’s decision to step down will trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge constituency.
Labor is confident of winning in Uxbridge, where Johnson had a majority of 7,210 in the last election, but Adams’ Selby seat in Yorkshire will prove more difficult for Labour: the Tories won that seat last time with a majority of 20,137.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are scrambling to win Dorries’ seat in Mid Bedfordshire, where the Tories are defending a majority of 24,664.
At their meeting, Privileges MPs are also expected to discuss whether comments made by Johnson and his allies in the House of Commons have compromised the committee’s integrity and may be contempt for parliament.
Gove said Johnson had “paid a price for the nature of the way he handled his relationship with the House of Commons”.
Asked if he thought Johnson would come back as an MP, Gove said: “I think it’s a matter for him. I have given advice to Boris Johnson in the past and he has not always followed it.”