Michael Gove tries to cool war over Boris Johnson's resignation

Michael Gove swipes that government is ‘getting on with important things’ as Tories go into meltdown after Boris Johnson’s bombshell resignation – with committee of MPs meeting to finalise Partygate report and THREE by-elections looming

Michael Gove swiped that the government is ‘getting on with important things’ today as the Tories face a fresh meltdown after Boris Johnson’s dramatic resignation.

The Levelling Up Secretary attempted to draw a line under the former PM’s political career – with whom he has had a turbulent rivalry – saying Rishi Sunak is a ‘better’ leader and the party is ‘united’ behind him.

He also dismissed criticism of the Commons privileges committee as a ‘kangaroo court’ – with the cross-party MPs due to meet later to finalise their report into allegations that Mr Johnson recklessly misled Parliament over Partygate. 

The findings could be released as soon as today, and is expected to make clear that they would have recommended a 20-day suspension if he had not already quit.  

The committee – which has a Labour chair but a majority of Tory members – could also call for Mr Johnson to be barred from the parliamentary estate for questioning its integrity.

Mr Sunak is struggling to quell a Tory civil war with the prospect of three by-elections looming. Along with Mr Johnson’s resignation, two of his allies – Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams – also announced they were standing down with immediate effect.

There has been a bitter row over Mr Johnson’s honours list, with Mr Sunak accused of reneging on an agreement for MPs to defer peerages until the election – something the PM denies.   

Boris Johnson was facing a recommendation from the Commons privileges committee that he should be suspended from the House for weeks – probably meaning he would have to contest a by-election

Michael Gove (pictured) swiped that the government is ‘getting on with important things’ today as the Tories face a fresh meltdown after Boris Johnson ‘s dramatic resignation

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Gove told Times Radio, said: ‘I’ve been a colleague of Boris’s for many years, and I’m sad that it’s come to this but I want to remember with admiration those things that he achieved while in office.

‘But I also think now that Boris has made the decision to stand down it’s important that everyone recognises that the Government is getting on with the most important things.

‘I will always think of Boris with affection,’ he said.

‘And Boris will always want to argue his case, as he has done through his political career with individual flair and pungency. But he’s now standing down as a member of Parliament.

‘He’s a free agent and, again, he will continue, I’m sure, to contribute in his own way.’

Mr Gove told Sky News he ‘wouldn’t describe the committee as a ”kangaroo court”’.

And he refused to say how he would vote assuming the committee’s report is brought to a vote in the House of Commons.

“I’ll have to read the report, like every Member of Parliament,” he said.

“Because I think all of us will have the opportunity to vote according to our judgment on this matter.

“I’ll read the report, see what the recommendations are, make up my own mind.”

Mr Johnson quit after the committee sent him a ‘warning letter’ which is thought to have confirmed it will find him guilty of lying when he told MPs no Covid rules were broken at No 10 gatherings.

The seven-strong committee is said to be considering fresh sanctions against him, which could include withholding the Commons pass given to most former MPs allowing them continued access to the parliamentary estate.

Former Commons Speaker John Bercow received a similar punishment following allegations of bullying.

The committee is also expected to consider sanctions against supporters of Mr Johnson who have publicly criticised its proceedings.

Allies of the former PM believe the committee – which is led by Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman – is biased against him. All seven who decided Mr Johnson’s fate had made disparaging comments against him.

The move could spell trouble for a number of prominent MPs, including Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said the committee’s proceedings ‘make kangaroo courts look respectable’.

Rishi Sunak is struggling to quell a Tory civil war with the prospect of three by-elections looming

The committee includes four Tories, but writing in The Mail on Sunday yesterday, Sir Jacob said they ‘ignored the politicking of the chairman and naively went along with her leadership’.

In his resignation statement on Friday, Mr Johnson said it had been ‘naive and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair’. He denied lying to Parliament and said the committee had ‘wilfully chosen to ignore the truth’, adding: ‘Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts.

‘This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.’

A Whitehall source said his comments were likely to be an ‘aggravating factor’ when the committee considers its verdict.

Guto Harri, Mr Johnson’s ex-communications director, said it was bizarre that the former PM could be hounded out by Miss Harman, who is a former acting Labour leader.

He told Sky News: ‘Can you imagine any Labour supporter being happy if someone like William Hague, say, had the fate of Keir Starmer in his hands when he was caught drinking beer and having curry with friends a long way from home in lockdown?

‘People will think, ‘Whoa, a committee led by the former Labour leader can hound Boris out of office when police found him guilty of one minor misdemeanour worth a 50 quid fine?’

At the weekend, the committee accused Mr Johnson of breaking the rules by effectively leaking its findings and questioning its integrity.

‘Mr Johnson has… impugned the integrity of the House by his statement,’ a spokesman said.

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