Boris Johnson’s supporters will vote against any sanction put forward by the privileges committee over the “Partygate” scandal, branding the inquiry a “witch hunt” against the former prime minister.

Hardcore allies of the ex-Tory leader also believe that by opposing any recommendations submitted from the committee it will act as a “show of force” to Rishi Sunak of his predecessor’s support base in the Commons.

Johnsonites have described the planned stand of solidarity as being akin to Spartacus, the 60s Kirk Douglas film in which an enslaved outsider leads a band of fugitives to overthrow a corrupt Rome, with Mr Johnson returned as prime minister.

One staunch ally told i: “I, for one, will support Boris. The committee is just an unnecessary witch hunt.”

Asked how many more would be willing to vote in support of Mr Johnson, the MP replied: “A lot. The problem is that the toadies will vote against him and with Labour the numbers will be challenging.”

The comments come just days before Mr Johnson is due to give evidence in a public hearing in front of the privileges committee on Wednesday, where he will seek to set out his defence.

Should the committee of MPs find that he deliberately misled the Commons over what he knew about lockdown parties being held in Downing Street it could recommend a range of sanctions, including a suspension from Parliament of more than 10 days, which could trigger a by-election.

Such a move would be strenuously opposed by Mr Johnson’s supports, with the same ally insisting: “If there is a forced by-election I for one will be decamping to Uxbridge [and South Ruislip, Mr Johnson’s constituency] and he will be returned which will be a real headache for the ones who voted against.

“Remember he was voted in by the majority of the country. Labour stitched him up and the public knows it.”

The veteran Tory said the situation was “exactly like” Spartacus, adding: “ The “Red Wallers” who shafted Boris are already feeling the cold from the electorate for getting rid of him. Boris could legitimately claim upon a return he was voted in by the electorate. It was Tory inexperienced flakes in the “Red Walls” and disenfranchised ministers most from the 2015 era that went against him for ambitious purposes.”

The comments come as another arch-Johnsonite Priti Patel warned this week that “there is a culture of collusion involved” in the privileges committee, as Mr Johnson’s supporters continue to seek to cast doubts over the entire process.

Another backbencher told i that the “reality is showing Labour has had a very dark hand in the background to this whole debate,” in reference to one-time partygate enforcer Sue Gray’s decision to apply to become Sir Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.

For Mr Sunak the prospect of the privileges committee hearing threatens to create a dark, Boris Johnson-shaped cloud on his horizon, following several weeks of effective and crisis-free leadership.

One senior supporter of Mr Sunak admitted there was an “undercurrent of anxiety about his [Mr Johnson] having a platform again”.

Having secured a potential new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, Mr Sunak has followed it up by displaying further adroit diplomatic skills during a whistle stop trip to San Diego to press the flesh with US President Joe Biden and Australian PM Anthony Albanese as part of the Aukus security pact.

His trip, where he announced an uplift in defence spending, a refresh of the “integrated review” of foreign and security policy, and a new submarine-building deal with the US and Australia, was almost overshadowed by a financial crisis, however.

The Prime Minister’s journey to the US was taken up with hours of conversations with Jeremy Hunt, the Bank of England and others on how to rescue the UK branch of Silicon Valley Bank.

Mr Sunak has privately been gushing over the contribution of HSBC, which agreed to step in and buy the troubled bank without being able to do the normal due diligence they would want before taking on liabilities of that scale.

Treasury officials, already exhausted in the run-up to the Budget, had to stay up until 3am thrashing out the details before waking again at 6am to finalise the announcement before the markets opened.

They feared a repeat on Wednesday, Budget day, when the giant bank Credit Suisse started to teeter – causing shares in other European banks to slide, driving an overall 3 per cent drop in the value of the FTSE 100 index.

It was only when the Swiss central bank promised to continue financing Credit Suisse that ministers began to relax, i understands.

They were equally relieved when the Budget landed without the sort of “unravelling” that has often been the fate of previous fiscal events. Mr Hunt prepared for his first Budget speech by going on a 19 mile run that morning in a bid to settle any remaining nerves.

“There are things we knew would be contentious,” a senior Government source said – highlighting the decision to abolish the cap on the total amount of money that pension savers can accrue tax-free.

They were encouraged by the main doctors’ union coming out in support of the policy: “Having the BMA out there saying there are doctors who are planning to come back to work, that’s the desired effect of the policy,” the source added.

But while the doctors may be happy, the Trussite wing on the Tory backbenches are less enthused, leaving Mr Sunak having to contend with growing discontent from his ghosts of prime ministers past.

Allies of Liz Truss gave this week’s Budget a lukewarm reception, with former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke grading the package of announcements as a “B+” during the week, with particular ire aimed at the country’s record high tax burden.

Sir John Redwood, who along with Mr Clarke, handed the Chancellor a dossier of demands to boost growth in the economy warned that Mr Hunt’s Budget “did not do enough to stimulate the major investment we need in home production of more energy, more industry, more food, more tech”.

“It failed to cut through the self-defeating money-go-round of higher taxes and more subsidies,” he warned.

Despite the misgivings on the backbenches, however, Mr Sunak will be feeling bullish after a successful start to the spring. His week was capped off with the prospect of the ongoing strikes coming to an end.

The PM had directly intervened in the nurses’ talks, using his authority to ensure more money in a bid to break the impasse. Optimism is now growing that a similar conclusion can be found with the teachers’ strikes, with “intensive talks” beginning on Friday.

Despite the improved outlook, however, Mr Sunak is unlikely to let up. He will remain working from Downing Street over the weekend. “He rarely takes a break, sadly,” one of his senior advisers admitted.

His dogged approach to detail and his furious work ethic is similar to that of another of his predecessors, Theresa May, who also presents a significant problem for the Prime Minister.

Having finally tabled his legislation to try and stop the small boats crossing the Channel this week, his proposals were given a withering assessment by Mrs May, who attacked the plans for being unfair, unviable and damaging to the UK’s international reputation.

While her increasingly pointed political interventions regularly attract plaudits, particularly on social media, some of those who worked with her in Government accuse her of being blinkered about her own decisions in No 10 – including her secret plans for a snap election to break the Brexit deadlock in 2019.

“She is revisionist on her own record,” an ex-Cabinet minister told i. “She complained about dropping the 0.7 per cent aid target – but if she’d gone to the country, one of her main promises would have been scrapping 0.7 per cent!”

Nevertheless, her opposition to swathes of the Illegal Migrants Bill is likely to cause serious challenges to Mr Sunak’s ability to pass the legislation without significant concessions around a new look asylum system, as Tory moderates look to heavily amend the bill.

But first the PM must weather yet another stage turn from Mr Johnson on Wednesday. Mr Sunak will be hoping his erstwhile colleague does not become a martyr, like Spartacus, and risk undoing his recent progress.

By admin