Polling guru predicts Sunak will turn Boris chaos to his advantage

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Boris Johnson “still doesn’t get it”, pollster Professor Sir John Curtice has claimed, as the increasingly bitter row between the former Prime Minister and successor Rishi Sunak over peerages deepened this week.

Earlier this week Mr Sunak claimed his predecessor asked him to overrule the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac) that any MP recommended for a peerage should stand down to take up the new position within six months – something he said he was “not prepared to do”.

His refusal to do so resulted in the removal of several names on Mr Johnson’s list, including former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries MP, who subsequently said she would be resigning as an MP in protest – although she has not yet done so.

Mr Johnson, who likewise quit his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat last week, hit back, issuing a strongly worded statement in which he claimed: “Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish.

“To honour these peerages it was not necessary to overrule Holac – but simply to ask them to renew their vetting, which was a mere formality.”

However, Sir John, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, was doubtful about whether the 58-year-old’s arguments would cut much ice with the British public.

He told Express.co.uk: “I have to say Mr Johnson still doesn’t get it.”

Referring to the controversy which eventually forced the resignation of Tory MP Sir Owen Paterson as MP for North Shropshire, he added: “What was the reason he originally got into trouble? It was trying to bend the rules to save an MP who had been found guilty of lobbying without declaring paid interest, etc.

“And what’s he trying to do now? He’s trying to get the Prime Minister to bend the rules to enable one of his friends to get a peerage.

“I mean, he just never learns. The point behind that is, we certainly know there are not many people out there who think that MPs’ lives should be made easy with respect to certain jobs.

“I suspect there aren’t very many people out there either that are necessarily enamoured of the idea that special arrangements should be made to ensure that the Prime Minister’s friends could get a peerage in the House of Lords, which is not that popular an institution in the first place.

“If you’re going to bend the rules you have got to bend the rules for a purpose that people regard as noble.

“So bending or indeed breaking the rules over the proroguing of parliament was fine because at least half the country believed in what he was doing.

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“I just don’t think that this is going to be regarded as a noble cause.”

With the situation still unfolding, and today’s report into Mr Johnson’s conduct during the pandemic concluding he repeatedly misled Parliament, the 58-year-old remains firmly in the spotlight.

Mr Johnson’s decision to resign may have been prompted by the revelation that he was facing a three-month suspension from the Commons.

However, Prof Sir John was sceptical about the damage Mr Johnson would ultimately inflict on the Conservative Party, even if they lose the three by-elections which are expected to be triggered – those of Ms Dorries, Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams, and Mr Johnson himself.

Prof Sir John said: “Obviously the downside for Sunak is the disturbance and the kerfuffle and he’s going have to fight three by-elections and it’s going to be difficult.

“But the potential upside is that if you take the view that Sunak needs to draw a line between his administration and that of his two predecessors [Mr Johnson and Liz Truss] the fact is Johnson has gone from the House of Commons and is seemingly fighting on fairly weak ground.

“Sunak is seemingly willing to be much more candid about his perception of Johnson than he was during the Tory leadership contest.

“Although it was pretty clear from between the lines he decided he no longer trusted him.

“I think to be honest, in the longer run, it could well be to his advantage.”

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