Boris Johnson accused by Church of England of ‘disgraceful slur’ against senior clergy – UK politics live | Politics

04.20

Church of England accuses Boris Johnson of ‘disgraceful slur’ against senior clergy

Good morning. Boris Johnson managed to maintain a tone of contrition during his long statement to the Commons yesterday on Partygate. But speaking to Tory MPs in private later, he was back to his usual self, courting popularity by smearing traditional hate figures for the Tory right.

He attacked the BBC and the Church of England. He seemed particularly angry about their response to the government’s plan to effectively deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda and, as the Daily Mirror reports, he said it was a “good policy” despite some “criticism on the BBC and from senior members of the clergy ”.

The Mirror quotes a source saying Johnson also implied the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was soft on Russia. Johnson reportedly said clergymen had “coincidentally had been less vociferous in their condemnation on Easter Sunday of Putin than they were of our policy on illegal immigrants”, the paper reports. In its report of the same comments, the Telegraph says the soft on Russia accusation was leveled at the BBC too.

Last night the archbishop’s chief spin doctor (he has one) hit back, describing Johnson’s claim as a “disgraceful slur”. This is from John Binghamhead of news at the Church of England.

Paul Scully, the business minister, was doing the broadcast round for the government this morning, and he did not deny the reports that Johnson attacked both the BBC and the Church of England at last night’s meeting. He says Johnson was concerned about Welby’s criticism of the Rwanda policy in his Easter sermon.

Scully was less confident defending the claim that the BBC was soft on Russia. When the Today presenter, Justin Webb, asked him if Johnson had ever “put his life on the line for the truth, as Jeremy Bowen has, as Lyse Doucet has, as Clive Myrie has”, Scully just said this was not something he could particularly comment on.

The phrase “dead cat” is one of the most excessively and wrongly used cliches in political commentary, but today it is probably appropriate.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.15am: Welfare ministers David Rutley and Mims Davies give evidence to the Commons work and pensions committee about universal credit and childcare costs.

9.30am: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, gives evidence to the Commons education committee.

9.45am: Sir Stephen House, acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

10am: Lord Bew, chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee about the vetting of potential peers, such as in the case of Evgeny Lebedev.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

1.30pm: Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, and other DHSC officials give evidence to the Commons public accounts committee about PPE contracts.

3pm: Damian Hinds, the security minister, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee about fraud in the justice system.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

05.38

Asked if the House of Lords Appointments Commission ever approves people for a peerage, only for a peerage not to be awarded, bew says this has happened, but that it is very rare.

He also says that, under his chairmanship, the commission for the first time rejected a nominee who was subsequently appointed by Downing Street.

Bew does not name the peer, but he he referring to the peerage for Peter Cruddas, a former Conservative party treasurer.

05.33

Increasingly peers are being appointed to Lords but not turning up to work, MPs told

bew tells the committee that he thinks the political parties have a duty “to clarify the issue of turning up”.

He says being a member of the House of Lords has “moved essentially from being an honor to becoming a job”.

When he was appointed to the Lords in 2007, he had to give an assurance that he would turn up, he says.

But he says the Lords is “slipping back” to a situation where peers get appointed but do not show up.

05.29

Q: What form does an intelligence assessment take? Do the agencies say this person should not be appointed?

bew says that, even though Evgeny Lebedev has said he is happy for details of his appointment process to be published, the committee is still bound by a duty of confidentiality.

But he says that within the next few days details of the Lebedev appointment may be published. That is a reference to the Commons vote last month ordering the government to publish this paperwork.

And he says he can say that “warning” is “not a word that we recognise”, as a description of how the intelligence agencies frame their advice.

05.25

At the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee Lord Bew, the chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, is giving evidence about how candidates for the Lords are vetted. The hearing was scheduled after the controversy about Boris Johnson’s involvement in the award of a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev, the oligarch and owner of the Evening Standard.

Bew told the committee it was normal for candidates for the House of Lords to undergo an assessment from the intelligence services. But he said there was a limit to what he could say about the Lebedev case because of privacy issues.

Lord Bew giving evidence to the public administration and constitutional affairs committee
Lord Bew giving evidence to the public administration and constitutional affairs committee Photograph: Parliament TV
05.10
Campaigners from the Together With Refugees coalition displaying their banner on a boat opposite the Houses of Parliament this morning.
Campaigners from the Together With Refugees coalition displaying their banner on a boat opposite the Houses of Parliament this morning. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
04.43

This is from the SNP MP Joanna Cherry on Boris Johnson’s comments about the BBC and the Church of England when he spoke in private to Tory MPs last night. (See 9.20am.)

What a contemptible man @BorisJohnson is attacking the Church & the BBC saying they have been more critical of him than they have of Putin. It’s a filthy lie. The BBC’s coverage of #Ukraine has been outstanding & it’s the church’s job to call out immorality.

— Joanna Cherry QC (@joannaccherry) April 20, 2022

04.37

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labor leader, rested Labour’s call for Boris Johnson’s resignation this morning. She told Sky News:

We need a prime minister people have trust and confidence in. It is a red line if the prime minister of this country believes they can break the ministerial code, lie to the British public and get away with it. Then, frankly, all bets are off for our rules and democratic process.

04.35

In another interview this morning Paul Scully, the business minister, accepted that Boris Johnson had to “rebuild trust” after Partygate. He told BBC Breakfast.

Clearly we didn’t deal with the ongoing situation [at] Christmas when ‘Partygate’ did start to become a thing, we didn’t handle it particularly well at that point communication-wise.

Nevertheless, the prime minister has gripped it, he has apologised, he’s accepted the fine, he has accepted the finding of the police and he does want to move on.

Now that’s difficult because he has got to rebuild trust with people who are angry, who are frustrated, but that is the challenge that we have.

04.32

In defense of Boris Johnson, sources said he accused “senior members of the clergy” of having “misconstrued the [Rwanda] policy”, PA Media reports. PA says:

The prime minister was said to have then added that the clergymen were “less vociferous” in their condemnation on Easter Sunday of Vladimir Putin than they were on the migration policy.

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, did not mention Putin by name in his Easter sermon, but he did call for a “Russian ceasefire, withdrawal and a commitment to talks”.

And he repeatedly criticized the invasion and discussed the plight of the Ukrainian people living through and fleeing the war.

04.20

Church of England accuses Boris Johnson of ‘disgraceful slur’ against senior clergy

Good morning. Boris Johnson managed to maintain a tone of contrition during his long statement to the Commons yesterday on Partygate. But speaking to Tory MPs in private later, he was back to his usual self, courting popularity by smearing traditional hate figures for the Tory right.

He attacked the BBC and the Church of England. He seemed particularly angry about their response to the government’s plan to effectively deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda and, as the Daily Mirror reports, he said it was a “good policy” despite some “criticism on the BBC and from senior members of the clergy ”.

The Mirror quotes a source saying Johnson also implied the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was soft on Russia. Johnson reportedly said clergymen had “coincidentally had been less vociferous in their condemnation on Easter Sunday of Putin than they were of our policy on illegal immigrants”, the paper reports. In its report of the same comments, the Telegraph says the soft on Russia accusation was leveled at the BBC too.

Last night the archbishop’s chief spin doctor (he has one) hit back, describing Johnson’s claim as a “disgraceful slur”. This is from John Binghamhead of news at the Church of England.

Paul Scully, the business minister, was doing the broadcast round for the government this morning, and he did not deny the reports that Johnson attacked both the BBC and the Church of England at last night’s meeting. He says Johnson was concerned about Welby’s criticism of the Rwanda policy in his Easter sermon.

Scully was less confident defending the claim that the BBC was soft on Russia. When the Today presenter, Justin Webb, asked him if Johnson had ever “put his life on the line for the truth, as Jeremy Bowen has, as Lyse Doucet has, as Clive Myrie has”, Scully just said this was not something he could particularly comment on.

The phrase “dead cat” is one of the most excessively and wrongly used cliches in political commentary, but today it is probably appropriate.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.15am: Welfare ministers David Rutley and Mims Davies give evidence to the Commons work and pensions committee about universal credit and childcare costs.

9.30am: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, gives evidence to the Commons education committee.

9.45am: Sir Stephen House, acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

10am: Lord Bew, chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee about the vetting of potential peers, such as in the case of Evgeny Lebedev.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

1.30pm: Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, and other DHSC officials give evidence to the Commons public accounts committee about PPE contracts.

3pm: Damian Hinds, the security minister, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee about fraud in the justice system.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

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