Boris Johnson has introduced changes to the ministerial code at a time critics accuse him of breaking it (Picture: AFP/Getty)
The opposition say amendments unveiled this week ‘waters down’ the ministerial code at a time when the prime minister’s own behaviour is under scrutiny.
Angela Rayner accused Mr Johnson of acting like a ‘tinpot despot’ after he introduced a revision which means frontbenchers will not automatically lose their jobs for ‘minor’ violations.
An update gives the PM the option of ordering a lesser sanction such as ‘some form of public apology, remedial action or removal of ministerial salary for a period’.
Ms Rayner said the PM’s new foreword to the code had removed ‘all references to integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest’.
It comes as a parliamentary watchdog carries out an investigation over whether he misled parliament about lockdown breaches in Downing Street.
Sir Keir Starmer plans to use an opposition day debate when parliament returns from its week-long break to encourage Conservative MPs to vote and rebel against Mr Johnson’s changes.
Mr Johnson’s application of the code previous came under scrutiny when the Home Secretary was allowed to stay in post despite being found to have bullied staff.
The PM stood by Priti Patel in a move that saw Sir Alex Allen, who was then the ethics advisor, resign in November 2020.
A vote could trigger a re-run of the Owen Paterson affair, which saw the PM’s parliamentary party split over a similar matter.
There was widespread anger on the Tory benches after they were whipped to vote for an overhaul of the sleaze watchdog and spare the veteran MP a suspension for paid lobbying.
The government was eventually forced to back down after a rebellion, an episode which fundamentally weakened Mr Johnson’s position in his party.
Ms Rayner said: ‘Many decent Conservative MPs are deeply uncomfortable with Johnson’s behaviour and they now have the chance to stop his sinister attempts at watering down standards and integrity in our democracy.
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to resign if he’s fined over a police investigation into a gathering of Labour staff in Durham (Picture: PA)
‘Serious breaches of the ministerial code must result in resignation, whether they are deliberately misleading Parliament, bullying staff, bribery or sexual assault.
‘This prime minister simply cannot be trusted to uphold standards in government while his conduct sinks further into the gutter and he gives the green light to corruption.’
Recent polls have found the Sue Gray report into partygate could have a devastating electoral impact on the prime minister.
Surveys conducted in the immediate aftermath found that a majority of voters believe he should resign over the affair.
Polling of key battleground seats found the Tories could be on course for a drubbing in a general election, with Mr Johnson potentially becoming the first prime minister to lose his seat.
Of 88 key Con-Lab swing seats, the Tories would only hold three on current electoral trends, YouGov said.
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