Tory infighting between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak hurting UK’s reputation, Sir Keir Starmer claims

The Labour leader claimed the Tory civil war was deterring investors from spending in Britain.

Tory infighting between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak is damaging the UK’s reputation, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed.

The Labour leader suggested the ongoing spat was “evidence of chaos” in the Tory party, claiming the by-elections triggered by Mr Johnson and his allies, Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams, were “essentially political tantrums”.

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It follows an explosive few days in the Conservative party, with Mr Johnson sensationally quitting the Commons on Friday in advance of a report expected to find he deliberately lied to MPs over the Partygate scandal.

Boris Johnson was accused of deterring investment in Britain.Boris Johnson was accused of deterring investment in Britain.
Boris Johnson was accused of deterring investment in Britain.

Speaking to business chiefs at London Tech Week on Tuesday, Sir Keir said: “Political parties usually fight like this when they’re out of office, it’s very unusual when they’re in office. There is a price to be paid.

“Everywhere you go across the country, most people are really worried about the cost of living, they are worrying about how they can pay their bills.

“And for them to see a government squabbling with itself instead of focused on what they need addressed, I think is a very serious situation for this government.

“And there’s a deeper price because there’s a reputation hit to the UK. And I think there’s an economic hit as well. Many investors said to me ‘we’re not investing in the UK right now because we don’t see the conditions of certainty and stability we need in order to invest’.”

The Privileges Committee report on Mr Johnson will be published on Wednesday, which will find he misled Parliament.

Before then, the former Tory leader became engaged in a public slanging match with his successor after Mr Sunak said his one-time ally had asked him to “do something I wasn’t prepared to do”.

The Prime Minister suggested Mr Johnson wanted him to ignore the recommendations of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC), something which would be a breach of convention.

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But Mr Johnson’s camp accused him of having “secretly blocked” the peerages of former culture secretary Ms Dorries and other allies in his resignation list.

The former prime minister released a statement saying: “Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish. To honour these peerages it was not necessary to overrule HOLAC – but simply to ask them to renew their vetting, which was a mere formality.”

The Cabinet Office dismissed the attack, saying: “Holac did not support the nominations of the MPs put forward by the former prime minister. It is unprecedented for a sitting prime minister to invite Holac to reconsider the vetting of individual nominees on a former prime minister’s resignation list. It is, therefore, not a formality.”

It comes as it emerged Mr Johnson was given updates about his resignation honours list before his crunch meeting with the Prime Minister.

It is understood Mr Johnson was provided with information via the Cabinet Office about his list some time after the HOLAC sent a list to Mr Sunak in February of the seven approved names, which were announced on Friday. This contradicts accounts by both Mr Johnson and former culture secretary Ms Dorries, who was one of the eight people whose nominations HOLAC did not support.

Downing Street said it would have been inappropriate for either No 10 or the Cabinet Office to contact individuals going through the vetting process directly.

“In line with the long-standing custom, the Prime Minister forwards the list unaltered following vetting by HOLAC,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“Obviously it is not for No 10 or the Cabinet Office to be in contact with individuals going through the HOLAC process – again, that would not be appropriate.”

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Ms Dorries, who claims she stood down as an MP after being “bullied” by Downing Street, said she only learned that her name was not on the list around half an hour before it was published.

Despite the expected findings of the Privileges Committee this week, Mr Johnson has insisted “I’ll be back” – a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.

In the Daily Express, the former prime minister said: “We must fully deliver on Brexit and on the 2019 manifesto. We must smash Labour at the next election.

“Nothing less than absolute victory and total Brexit will do – and as the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said, I’ll be back.”

The message echoed Mr Johnson’s sign-off during his final appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions last year, when he told MPs: “Hasta la vista, baby” – the catchphrase of Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in the 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

That reference similarly left the door open for a possible comeback, but the former Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP remained on the back benches until quitting the Commons on Friday.

It comes as both factions were warned the “infighting” jars with “the terrible losses” suffered during the pandemic.

Sam Jacobs, a lawyer representing the Trades Union Congress, said the Cabinet Office’s refusal to hand over requested documents to the Covid Inquiry was “corrosive” and would damage confidence in the process.

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He told the inquiry: “It [the Cabinet Office] is refusing even to return Mr Johnson’s diaries to him as it knows Mr Johnson intends to provide them to the inquiry. Mr Johnson himself has been complaining to the Times newspaper of the Cabinet Office foot-dragging in response to the inquiry, of wasting public time and money by delaying the inquiry, and of deliberately frustrating the inquiry’s work.

“My Lady, the infighting jars with the terrible losses described in the impact film that we watched this morning.

“The position taken by the Cabinet Office is corrosive because it damages confidence in this inquiry. It smacks of having something to hide – of fighting tooth and nail to avoid to avoid revealing all to the inquiry.”



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