Liz Truss has waded into the fallout over the partygate report which found her predecessor Boris Johnson lied to Parliament, branding his removal a “massive mistake”.
The former prime minister, who stood down after a short and tumultuous premiership last autumn, told GB News that Johnson had a “huge mandate” in support of Brexit.
Asked if she thought, like Johnson, that the Privileges Committee was a kangaroo court, she said: “I think it was a massive mistake of the Conservative parliamentary party to remove Boris as our prime minister. I think that’s where all the problems here have started.”
She told the channel: “I know Boris got a huge mandate, and he got a mandate to get Brexit done… people voted for him because he was optimistic about our country’s future.”
She added: “He had a vision. So, in the first place, what I think was wrong, was Conservative MPs removing an elected Prime Minister that so many people had voted for.
“And I think they’re sowing the seeds of huge problems for our party.”
It comes as the fallout from the scathing report – which called for Johnson to be banned from holding a pass to access parliament – leaves Rishi Sunak battling to hold his party together.
MPs will vote on Monday on the Privileges Committee report, which also recommended Johnson should have faced a 90-day suspension had he not already resigned in advance.
MPs will be given a free vote, but Johnson’s allies warned Tories they could face battles with their local parties to remain as candidates at the next election if they back the motion.
The proposed sanctions are expected to pass, with only a relatively small group of loyalists set to oppose the findings, although many more Conservatives could simply not turn up.
Truss, who spent 49 days as prime minister after succeeding Johnson as Tory leader, told GB News that preventing him holding a parliamentary pass would be a “very harsh decision”.
Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, ex-Cabinet minister and Johnson ally described the recommendation of 90 days as “vindictive” and claimed it may have “helped rather than hindered” his return.
Sir Jake Berry, a former Tory party chairman who is a close ally of Mr Johnson, conceded he was “almost certain that Parliament will vote in favour” of the report.
But he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he will “certainly” be opposing the report and said it was an “absolute disgrace” that the Privileges Committee “threatened MPs” who criticised it.
He claimed: “It’s an attack on free speech… why are they trying to stop any debate on this, to gag MPs and prevent them talking about it.”
With David Hughes, Sam Blewett and Sophie Wingate, PA Political Staff