Northampton MP Michael Ellis dubbed ‘Minister for defending the indefensible’ over backing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Minister insists Tory leader ‘did not recall’ 2019 briefing as Wellingborough MP says consitutents ‘have never heard of’ shamed MP

Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 8:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 9:00 am

Northampton North MP Michael Ellis was dubbed “Minister for defending the indefensible” after again being brought out to face a furious House of Commons baying for his boss' blood.

The Cabinet Office minister drew laughter and disbelief from opposition MPs as he insisted Boris Johnson had “acted with probity at all times” over the appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip despite claims of sexual misconduct.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone insisted people in Northamptonshire were more interested in National Insurance changes kicking in on Wednesday (July 6) than an “MP they have never heard about.”

County MPs Peter Bone (left) and Michael Ellis are both backing embattled PM Boris Johnson despite high-profile resignations

SNP's Brendan O'Hara said: “Once again, the Minister for defending the indefensible is sent out to defend his boss, but even he must realise the frequency with which we reconvene in this place to question the veracity of the Prime Minister’s version of events.

“It is like being on a merry-go-round that gets faster and faster.”

Earlier on Tuesday (July 5), it was confirmed Mr Johnson was told about an investigation into the disgraced Tamworth MP's inappropriate behaviour in 2019 despite days of No10 insisting the PM had been unaware of specific allegations.

MPs from all sides fired questions at Mr Ellis, who also backed the PM in the Commons over the Partygate scandal earlier this year.

One of only a few allies was Wellingborough MP Peter Bone, who accused Labour MPs of turning up to “bash Boris.”

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He asked Mr Ellis: “Does my learned friend think that our constituents in Northamptonshire, which we both represent, are more concerned about an MP they have never heard about, or the biggest tax reduction in decades, which will happen tomorrow?”

Mr Ellis replied that Mr Bone had “hit the nail on the head, as usual.”

The Northampton North MP told MPs that Boris Johnson “did not immediately recall” that he was briefed in 2019 about an investigation that found Chris Pincher behaved inappropriately.

He added that an investigation found Mr Pincher had “meant no harm.”

The Prime Minister later apologised saying appointing Mr Pincher “was a mistake” and “in hindsight the wrong thing to do.”

Minutes after the PM had spoken on the matter, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid both resigned.

In his reisgnation letter, Mr Sunak said: “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.

“I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for. We cannot continue like this."

Mr Johnson continued as Conservative leader after surviving a vote of confidence last month.

Northampton South MP, Andrew Lewer, was among 148 Tory MPs voting against the PM, admitting he had been “dismayed at the erosion of public trust in government.”

South Northamptonshire's Dame Andrea Leadsom also questioned Mr Johnson's position a few days before the vote, Dame Andrea Leadsom, blaming him for “unacceptable failings of leadership” over the Partygate scandal.

Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris — current Tory party chief whip and Mr Pincher’s ‘boss’ — was seen arriving at Downing Street following the resignations of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid.