WOKING MP Jonathan Lord has urged his Conservative colleagues to unite behind prime minister Rishi Sunak in the wake of a vote on whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over Covid lockdown parties.

The report by the Privileges Committee, which found that Mr Johnson had misled MPs, was approved on Monday evening by an overwhelming 354 votes to seven. Mr Lord abstained.

However, with a general election not much more than a year away, Mr Lord was looking to the future.

“With cost-of-living challenges continuing and war still raging in Ukraine, I think my Conservative MP colleagues in parliament should unite to give strong support to our prime minister Rishi Sunak, as he tries to tackle the key issues facing our country,” Mr Lord said.

Michael Gove, the Conservative MP for neighbouring Surrey Heath and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, also abstained.

Mr Gove’s position had been clearly flagged in an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday.

Asked if he would endorse the report by voting for it, Mr Gove said:  “I’ve read the whole report. There are parts of it I think are excellent work. I don’t agree with the conclusion.

“I think the final conclusion, the decision to impose a 90-day penalty, is not merited by the evidence of the committee’s report. I will not vote, I will abstain.”

The 90-day suspension was rendered redundant when Mr Johnson resigned as an MP.

Mr Gove had been sacked a year ago by Mr Johnson, with whom he has had an often troubled relationship, after advising the prime minister he should stand down as his support crumbled, although Mr Gove was later returned to cabinet when Mr Sunak became prime minister.

Mr Lord, too, addressed the so-called Partygate issues in the report.

“Like many constituents, I was very disappointed that Boris Johnson broke lockdown rules and even more disappointed that he gave clear assurances to MPs and the country that no rules were broken at Downing Street when that turned out not to be the case,” he said.

“I do think the Privileges Committee has followed due process properly, but, as an important aside, I also think it was unwise to appoint a chair of that committee, Harriet Harman, who was already on the record as saying that Boris Johnson had almost certainly misled parliament.

“Like the overwhelming majority of my Conservative MP colleagues, I abstained on the vote.

“Boris Johnson had already resigned from parliament and, although I support the process and many of the key findings, it was unwise of the Commons Privileges Committee to impose an almost unprecedented 90-day sanction on the former PM, as this gave rise to a perception of bias that should have been studiously avoided.”