Sunak takes MPs to the Winder Hotel he struck his Brexit deal

Rishi Sunak and von der Leyen discuss Horizon Europe

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The Prime Minister may just be making one of the least subtle points ever as he dragoons Conservative MPs into the five-star hotel and in effect demand they start working out how they can be unified. But nobody will care much about his motives, the one big question will be: Where is Boris?

As one very senior Tory backbencher noted as he got ready to go: “They seek him here, they seek him there.”

Nobody knows if Mr Johnson will be present in Berkshire but the feeling is it is less likely than the European Commission just saying: “You know, let’s just forget about the fish!”

Mr Johnson was present in Parliament on Monday up until around the moment Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen approached their podia to unveil the infamous deal.

Since then he has been mysteriously absent.

Not in the Chamber to welcome (or otherwise) the Prime Minister’s statement unlike Theresa May, whose constituency border Windsor.

Not even visible on the Parliamentary estate.

Not a word uttered in the media. No broadcast. Not even a post on Twitter.

If he does not make an appearance he will though be in a very small minority.

An away day to discuss messaging, strategy and election campaigning had been met with a rolling of eyes initially by Tory MPs.

But now with so much intrigue about the Windsor Framework MPs could not wait to pack in – perhaps especially to the venue where it actually happened.

As one MP said: “You really couldn’t make it up!”

Of course, it is not so much to listen to the thoughts of Chairman (Greg) Hands or even the gritty tones of his increasingly popular deputy Lee Anderson.

As one MP put it: “We all want to know what colleagues are saying about the deal. How are they going to vote? What are the issues?”

But more than that they want to talk about the future. How to get the government to start cutting rather than increasing taxes and “What happens after we get an utter booting in the local elections?”

There will be a lot of plotting, plenty of tight knit groups in corner. Quiet chats around the coffee and biscuits.

But the man at the heart of much of that gossip might not be there.

Why not? Well it seems Boris Johnson has been told to stay as quiet as possible about the deal.

As one former minister put it: “He is very wise for now to keep his mouth shut.

“He needs to see how it all plays out, who is rebelling and how many.

“There is no need for him to either attack or endorse the deal. This is Sunak’s and if it all goes wrong he wants to be able to be there as an alternative.

“But if it goes well, he does not want to look as though he has attacked something very positive.”

There are even questions from Tory MPs about whether Mr Johnson will vote on the deal.

But a story Jacob Rees-Mogg tells about Theresa May’s infamous final attempt to get a deal with the EU is illustrative of the sort of advice he is getting now.

Mr Rees-Mogg explains: “We all knew it was a rotten deal. But it was also clear that colleagues would not accept a leader who had been a Brexit spartan (and opposed the bill).

“So Iain Duncan Smith and I forced Boris to vote for it so he could be leader.

“That is why we ourselves voted for it because we did not feel we could tell Boris to do it and then do the opposite.

“Fortunately, it was rejected but Boris did not come out as looking extreme.”

As MPs chat and plot today, Mr Johnson is considering again how to perform a similar balancing act if his hopes of a return as leader are to be realised.

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