Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has continued to defend Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the partygate controversy continues to cause problems for the Government. He said yesterday that, in his experience, “very few people do lie in public life” and he added that “lying in public life is not a sensible thing to do, because it gets found out”. The MP for North East Somerset insists that Mr Johnson does not need to resign if interviewed under caution by police. He told Channel 4 News: “No, of course, that wouldn’t be a resigning matter, because people are innocent in this country until proven guilty.
And it is worth bearing in mind that the police themselves have said that the fact that they are investigating something doesn’t mean that any crime has necessarily been committed, that they are investigating because that is what the police do.”
Mr Rees-Mogg caused controversy recently after hitting out at Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
Mr Ross had said that Mr Johnson should resign over the scandal, leading Mr Rees-Mogg to brand the Scottish Tory a “lightweight” figure.
Now, Chief Whip of the Scottish Conservative Party Stephen Kerr has spoken to Express.co.uk about Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments.
He said: “I think he used a variety of different terms to describe Douglas. The important thing is that every other member of the Cabinet came out and said Douglas is a considerable figure in the Conservative Party.
“We all say things from time to time that we might want to reflect on. I wouldn’t want to say anything that would reignite that.”
Asked about Mr Rees-Mogg’s swipe, Mr Ross responded: “Jacob Rees-Mogg, as anyone, is entitled to their opinions. I don’t have to agree with them.”
He added: “My message is I’m going to hold the First Minister to account and ensure that Scottish Conservatives continue to provide a real alternative here in Scotland.”
Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie demanded that Mr Rees-Mogg apologise for his comments.
He added that the Tory Commons leader was “utterly wrong to characterise Douglas Ross as in any way a lightweight figure.”
Prime Minister Johnson may survive the partygate furore for now as reports suggest Tory MPs are shelving their plans to oust him.
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However, The Times reports that it is a matter of “when, not if” the threshold of 54 letters of no confidence needed to trigger a vote is reached.
The Guardian reported last night that a new collection of Tory MPs are “poised” to issue letters of no-confidence in Mr Johnson over the partygate scandal, including more than two dozen former ministers.
According to the newspaper, senior backbenchers have now resolved to “move as a collective” to force a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson.
An MP who remained nameless said: “It’s the white, middle-aged backbencher he has to watch.
“People who feel strongly about their morals and to whom this Prime Minister can’t offer anything personally.”
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The Mail reports today that the Prime Minister is preparing to admit his Government made “serious mistakes” over the partygate affair.
His response to the report by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray is expected to begin with an apology for the anger caused by the events, and acknowledgment that they should never have happened.
One ally told the newspaper: “He knows he has made serious mistakes, but he believes he is still the right man to lead this country.”