HAS anyone seen Rishi?

Yesterday, Rishi “integrity and accountability” Sunak oh so conveniently had an urgent appointment with a photo op before the Commons Privileges Committee published its damning report about how his predecessor and former boss had repeatedly lied to the Commons. This permitted him to dodge any questions about it – saying that he could not comment on a report that had not yet been published.

Today, Sunak is conspicuous by his absence and there has still been no official statement from Mr Accountability. This may or may not be related to the fact that when Johnson was still his boss, Sunak, who was also fined by the police for breaching lockdown rules by attending an unlawful party, repeatedly denied that any illegal gatherings had taken place. After all, if Johnson must have known that the gatherings were illegal, Sunak must have known too.

Meanwhile Douglas Ross, that other erstwhile defender of Boris Johnson's supposed integrity and honesty, is also keeping a low profile.

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Ross called for Johnson to resign early in 2022 over the allegations of unlawful parties at Downing Street, but then changed his mind following the Russian invasion of Ukraine – which had the quite remarkable side effect of transforming Boris Johnson into a paragon of virtue in the eyes of the Scottish Tory branch manager.

Ross insisted that Johnson was an "honest man". He then U-turned again and voted against Johnson in the Commons vote of confidence which led to his demise. Now, like his current boss Sunak, Ross is desperately trying to keep a low profile and refused to answer when asked if he still thought that Johnson was an honest man.

There is to be a vote in the Commons on Monday when MPs will decide whether to formally endorse the report from the Privileges Committee. This will see Conservative MPs free from the party whip and able to vote as their conscience dictates. That is of course assuming that Conservative MPs have consciences. The accumulated evidence would strongly suggest that they don't.

However the vote will in any event be a formality as Johnson has already resigned as an MP.

The National:

There are reports today that Johnson (above) is telling his allies in the Commons not to vote against the report on the grounds that it would be "useless”. This is the same Johnson who just yesterday was thundering about how the report was a "load of tripe" and a "political assassination" and who was continuing to stamp his foot and pout that he had done nothing wrong.

The apparent change of heart is not because Johnson has suddenly decided to accept that he was in the wrong, rather it has everything to do with a selfish political calculation. After all, you would not really expect anything else from Johnson. Many Tory MPs, even former Johnson supporters, are heartily sick of the entire circus. He has haemorrhaged support amongst backbench Conservative MPs even as he retains significant support amongst the Tory base and the right-wing media.

If Johnson were to call on his backbench supporters to vote against the report, it would reveal just how paltry his Commons power base has become.

It's far better for him to urge abstentions, then the number of his remaining diehard supporters will be artificially inflated with those Tory MPs who choose to abstain for fear of alienating their local Conservative associations – and Johnson can continue to give the impression that he is far more influential within the Parliamentary Conservative party than is in fact the case. All the better to continue to threaten his hated successor Rishi Sunak.

Meanwhile, Johnson has announced that he will be writing a column for the Daily Mail – and in doing so has broken the rules yet again by failing to get permission from the appointments watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba). According to the ministerial code, former ministers must seek clearance from Acoba before taking up such a role. But as always, for Johnson rules are things which apply to other people, not to him.

Scottish opinion polling

A new opinion poll has continued the pattern of polling which shows that the police investigation into the SNP's finances and recent high profile arrests have not dented support for independence. The poll by Savanta for the Scotsman newspaper puts support for independence on 49%, up one point since the last poll from the company on the question.

Savanta is one of the polling companies which weights its polling sample by the outcome of the 2014 referendum, and there are reasons to suspect that this practice artificially decreases the true level of support for independence. That said, it is clear from the pattern of several different polls that, contrary to what the anti-independence parties and their friends in the Scottish media would have us believe, the people of Scotland clearly understand that voting for the SNP in local, Holyrood, or Westminster elections is a very different proposition from supporting Scottish independence.

And in Wales

The National: Rhun ap Iorwerth pictured in Holyhead

Plaid Cymru has announced the appointment of a new leader following the resignation in May of Adam Price after the publication of a damning report which found a "culture of sexual harassment, bullying and misogyny" within the party. Rhun ap Iorwerth (above), who represents Ynys Môn (Anglesey in English) in the Senedd, was the only candidate when nominations for the leadership closed on Friday morning. The former BBC journalist was deputy leader of the party under Adam Price.

In a statement, he said that Wales was "on a journey to independence" while acknowledging that his party was at a crossroads and facing serious challenges, he added: "Now is the time to unite Plaid Cymru so we can lead the work of building a new future for Wales."

Although it is still not close to a majority, interest in and support for Welsh independence has been increasing in recent years.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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