30 May 2023

Sunak and Johnson not holding expected meeting to tackle raft of rows

30 May 2023

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are not scheduled to meet this week despite suggestions they would hold clear-the-air talks to tackle a series of thorny issues.

It was understood on Tuesday there had been initial discussions about holding a telephone call but this is now not scheduled to go ahead.

The two leading Conservatives would have a lot more to discuss than the row over the disclosure of Mr Johnson’s WhatsApp messages and notebooks to the Covid-19 Inquiry.

The meeting had been billed by the former prime minister’s allies in the Sunday Times as an opportunity to discuss his honours list, which has attracted wide-ranging criticism.

Several current Tory MPs are believed to have been listed – which, if confirmed, would force the Conservatives to fight risky by-elections at a time of dire polling.

Early electoral battles could be held in the seats of former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, Nigel Adams, another close ally of Mr Johnson’s, and Alok Sharma, who was Cop26 president.

There have also been renewed allegations of cronyism, with loyal aides and even his father Stanley Johnson reported to be put forward for honours.

Boris Johnson’s own political future could also be the centre of discussions.

He could be forced to face his own by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat under the worst-case scenario relating to the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he lied to Parliament over Covid rule-breaking in No 10.

Mr Sunak has said he will let MPs come to their own decision “as individuals” if the Commons is asked to approve a punishment for his predecessor.

There has been suggestions Mr Johnson will not try to defend the west London constituency and will seek a safer seat, possibly Henley, the Tory stronghold he previously represented.

Mr Johnson has also reacted furiously to the Cabinet Office decision to hand over entries from his official diary during the pandemic to police amid concerns of further rule-breaking.

No 10 and the Cabinet Office have insisted ministers were not involved when Whitehall officials passed concerns to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police.

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