Boris Johnson will face questions from the powerful Liaison Committee on Wednesday in the wake of another scandal.
A few hours after what could be a bruising Prime Minister’s Questions, the PM is set to be quizzed on a range of topics, including “integrity in politics”, the rule of law, and Ukraine and its impacts on the UK, the rising cost of living and the government’s response.
MPs on the committee, who are chairs of Commons committees, will likely ask him about the appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip after he quit last week and was then suspended from the party.
Partygate is also likely to crop up.
Mr Pincher admitted he “drank far too much” last week and is now seeking professional medical help as he faces allegations of groping two men, including an MP.
Mr Johnson was firstly criticised over his delay in suspending the Tory whip from Mr Pincher.
He was then lambasted for initially denying he knew about similar allegations about Mr Pincher in 2019 ahead of appointing him as deputy chief whip in February this year – which ministers also insisted upon.
However, the PM’s spokesman then admitted on Tuesday Mr Johnson had been told about the 2019 allegations and subsequent investigation – where the complaint was upheld and Mr Pincher apologised – but had “forgotten”.
The PM is certain to be quizzed about what he knew, when he knew it and why ministers were briefed to deny his knowledge of the 2019 allegations.
Liaison Committee chair and Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin is unlikely to give the PM an easy ride after demanding to know in the Commons on Tuesday why those with “the wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours” are promoted by their leaders.
“Isn’t that exactly what gives permission for the wrong attitudes and the wrong behaviours to persist?” he asked.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, chair of the standards committee, is also expected to take part.
He also told the Commons: “Isn’t the real problem here that if the boss is somebody who has spent all their political career trying to get away with things and finding themselves innocent in the court of their own opinion, if their boss is somebody who boasts to everybody laughingly that all the sex pests support him for the leadership, if the boss is somebody who whenever he gets into trouble tries to destroy the system, the truth is that all his allies will endlessly take liberties?”
Conservative MP William Wragg, chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, is also set to be at the meeting.
On Tuesday he said ministers should consider how long they were prepared to carry on supporting the government, which he said is “widely regarded of having lost its sense of direction”.
Partygate represented a ‘serious failure of leadership’
The last time Mr Johnson appeared in front of the Liaison Committee, on 30 March, the Met Police had the day before issued 20 more fines over Downing Street lockdown-breaching parties.
While Mr Johnson said he had not been fined in that latest tranche, he refused to “give a running commentary” as the investigation was still ongoing.
Since then, the Met’s partygate inquiry has concluded – with 126 fines issued to 83 people – and the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties has also been published.
Ms Gray’s damning report stated the parties represented a “serious failure of leadership” and some of the behaviour at the gatherings was “difficult to justify”.
As the Liaison Committee has not had a chance to grill the PM properly on partygate, it is likely to be broached this time.
In March, Sir Bernard was not able to attend as he had COVID, so this will also be his first opportunity to properly quiz the PM on the various scandals that have surrounded him this year.
Follow the Liaison Committee live on Sky News’ Politics Hub from 3pm on Wednesday after PMQs at 12pm.