PICTURES of the House of Commons show the Tory benches were deserted as MPs debated standards in public life on Tuesday afternoon.

Following the vote of confidence in Boris Johnson, in which he won but saw 148 MPs vote against him amid frustration over lockdown-breaching parties held at Number 10, Labour introduced an opposition day debate on the topic.

The National counted between seven and nine Tory MPs in attendance – out of a possible 359. Several SNP, Labour and LibDem MPs faced the largely empty Tory benches as the session got under way.

The National:

The National:

Labour deputy Angela Rayner kicked off the discussion by telling the few Tory MPs in attendance that the families of Covid victims can’t “move on” from partygate without Johnson leaving his post.

“I have heard ministers on the media in the last 24 hours talking about how we must draw a line, how we must move on,” she told the handful of people on the government benches.

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“But many people in this country cannot draw a line, cannot move on whilst this Prime Minister is in office, because it triggers them and what they experienced and the trauma that their family faced during the crisis.”

She later added: “Whilst the Prime Minister remains in office I don’t think the public will ever move on from what they have been through because it was a very traumatic time. There isn’t a family in the UK that wasn’t affected by it, and so therefore every time a minister tells the public move on, all that does is make them more and more upset and angry.”

The National:

Labour also accused the Prime Minister of undermining British values by “downgrading” standards expected in public life.

Rayner spoke about Jubilee parties and being “proud of our British values”, adding: “We all are, but the conduct of this Prime Minister undermines those values – rigging the rules that he himself is under investigation for breaching, downgrading standards, debasing the principles of public life before our very eyes.

“There is nothing decent about the way that he has acted. And what example does he set?

“This Prime Minister’s example of leadership: illegally proroguing parliament, breeding a Downing Street culture where his staff felt able to break lockdown rules including himself, putting the very standards that underpin our democracy to the shredder.”

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Intervening, Conservative MP for Devizes Danny Kruger quoted a report from the Institute for Government suggesting that concerns about weakening the ministerial code were “confected accusations” and called on Rayner to correct the record.

She replied that the Prime Minister had chosen to “cherry pick” recommendations of how to update the code.

Later, SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara said his party would support Labour’s motion on upholding standards in public life if a vote were held.

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He told MPs: “Of course, the Government have tried to spin the changes they have introduced as being in line with what was recommended in the report but we all know that those changes to the ministerial code made last week were done to protect the Prime Minister’s personal position, and changing the rules governing behaviour ahead of an upcoming inquiry by the privileges committee.

“He appears to have viewed the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life as a smorgasbord of suggested reforms from which he could choose those that suited him and leave out those that he didn’t much fancy.

“But surely if this was a genuine attempt at a fresh start, if he wanted us to believe that he had been truly humbled by the Sue Gray report, if he wanted the public to believe that he had changed, then he would have accepted the committee’s recommendations in full.”