Rishi Sunak Under Pressure To Sack Zac Goldsmith Over Partygate Probe Criticism

It's another test of the prime minister's commitment to "integrity, professionalism and accountability".
Zac Goldsmith was among those Tory politicians criticised by the privileges committee.
Zac Goldsmith was among those Tory politicians criticised by the privileges committee.
LARS HAGBERG via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak has been urged to sack Zac Goldsmith from the government after he was among the Boris Johnson allies condemned for criticising the privileges committee’s probe into the former PM.

The peer, who is minister for overseas territories, Commonwealth, energy, climate and environment, retweeted a tweet calling the inquiry a witch hunt and kangaroo court.

He was one of several Tory MPs and peers - including former cabinet ministers Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg - criticised by the committee in a report this morning.

They said the Johnson supporters may have committed a contempt of parliament and suggested they be punished by the Commons and Lords.

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow Commons leader, said: “Rishi Sunak has allowed senior members of his own party to undermine and attack Britain’s democratic institutions. This includes a serving government minister and two former Cabinet ministers.

“It’s yet another example of the prime minister’s weakness and failure to hold his own ministers to high standards that Zac Goldsmith is still a government minister.

“It’s time Rishi Sunak condemned his Conservative colleagues who have sought to override parliament’s standards system to get one of their own off the hook.”

Dick Neby, the Lib Dems’ leader in the Lords, said: “It is only right that Sunak sacks Zac Goldsmith from his role as government minister if he wants to show any shred of integrity.

“The Conservative party is so wrapped up in dealing with sleaze and chaos that they are failing to tackle the real issues that matter to the British people.”

The privileges committee ruled two weeks ago that Johnson had repeatedly misled parliament by insisting lockdown rules had been followed at all times in Downing Street.

Johnson - who resigned as an MP after seeing an advanced copy of the report - described it as “the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

The committee said it would have recommended a 90-day Commons suspension if Johnson had not already quit, and also called for him to lose his parliamentary pass - a move overwhelmingly backed by MPs.

In their latest report, the committee complains of “the improper pressure brought to bear on the committee and its members throughout this inquiry”.

“We are concerned in particular at the involvement of members of both houses in attempting to influence the outcome of the inquiry,” the committee says.

“Those members did not choose to engage through any proper process such as the submission of letters or evidence to our inquiry, but by attacking the members of the committee, in order to influence their judgement.”

On June 15, Dorries tweeted: “We also need to keep a close eye on the careers of the Conservative MPs who sat on that committee. Do they suddenly find themselves on chicken runs into safe seats? Gongs? Were promises made? We need to know if they were. Justice has to be seen to be done at all levels of this process.”

On March 22, Rees-Mogg told Radio 4 the privileges committee “makes kangaroo courts look respectable”.

MPs will debate and vote on the committee’s new report on July 10, and those named in it could face punishment from parliament.

The committee said it was up to MPs “to consider what further action, if any, to take in respect of members of the house referred to in this special report”.


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