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Senior Tory warns PM against snap election to duck ‘partygate’ probe

Boris Johnson boarding a plane as he leaves the Nato summit in Madrid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Boris Johnson boarding a plane as he leaves the Nato summit in Madrid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A senior Tory backbencher has warned Boris Johnson not to call a snap general election to try to avoid an inquiry into whether he misled Parliament.

Steve Baker, a former minister who organised the Brexiteer revolt against Theresa May, said there was no reason to go to the polls while the Government enjoyed a strong working majority.

“The idea of going to an early general election when we could just get on and govern the country with a 77-seat working majority now, it’s really crackers,” he told LBC radio.

Steve Baker
Steve Baker said the idea of a snap election was ‘crackers’ (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

His comments follow a report that staff at Conservative headquarters have war gamed a snap election if Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is forced to resign over the investigation by Durham police into lockdown violations.

However, Mr Baker said the only reason for holding an autumn election would be to evade an inquiry by the Commons Privileges Committee into whether Mr Johnson misled the House over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

He said that if cross-party committee, chaired by Labour veteran Harriet Harman, found the Prime Minister knowingly misled MPs he would have to resign.

“The only reason to call a general election before the autumn is to try and circumvent an inconvenient report.

“What a thing to put the nation through,” he said.

“The honourable thing to do is let the report come out, see what it says and if it says he has knowingly misled the House, to go.”

Mr Baker expressed concern that allies of the Prime Minister were trying to undermine the the inquiry before it had even begun, reportedly describing it as a “kangaroo court”.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted they trusted the committee “to take its responsibilities seriously”, but Mr Baker said he feared they were preparing the ground for Mr Johnson to ignore its findings.

The MP, who is standing for the executive of the 1922 Committee which sets the Tory leadership rules, said if that happened it would be right to change to rules to allow another vote of confidence in the Prime Minister this year.

“It does look, unfortunately, like they are rubbishing the institution (the Privileges Committee).

“This is a most unfortunate tendency which I for one will not have.

“I think what they are doing is just that, preparing to ignore it,” he said.

“In those circumstances, if the Prime Minister tried to stay when actually he’d been found to have knowingly misled the House, then I for one would be saying we have got to give MPs a chance to vote again.”