Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Thursday, Kwarteng was attempting to defend the Conservative Party’s decision to let Tory MP Owen Paterson off the hook for breaching lobbying rules – even though the MPs’ watchdog recommended suspending him for 30 days.
Kwarteng said: “People look to Britain to maintain high standards which is exactly why I’m here in Glasgow [for COP26].
“That’s why we’re showing leadership – and that does extend to high standards of governance.”
Interviewer Nick Robinson seemed less convinced and asked for individual examples which back up Kwarteng’s claim that this “government is in favour of integrity and probity in public life”.
He added: “I’m pausing here Mr Kwarteng and maybe you can help me, let me just ask an open question – can you give name a single thing that Boris Johnson has done to deliver higher integrity and probity in public life. Just one.”
“I could do lots of things – we had a manifesto commitment to deliver Brexit and we delivered Brexit,” the senior minister said.
“That was something we promised to do and the prime minister led a government to do that.”
He said Downing Street were going to repeat this trend when it came to its climate pledges.
But Robinson pointed out that this was not really to do with the prime minister as a person, noting: “We’re talking about the standards of individuals aren’t we?”
Kwarteng maintained: “Holding yourself to a manifesto commitment and delivering those commitments is a feature of integrity.”
The prime minister has been heavily criticised for breaching public trust on several occasions during his time in office.
Most recently, he was accused of breaking his own lockdown rules last Christmas when his friend Nimco Ali was found to have spent the festive season with Johnson, his wife and their child.
Robinson also pointed out all the times the prime minister has let those in his close circles get away with breaking the rules.
The interviewer pointed out: “Was allowing Dominic Cummings to stay in his post when he broke the rules helping that?”
Cummings was Johnson’s most senior aide up until his resignation in 2020. He infamously breaching lockdown rules last April when he drove to Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”. The prime minister stood by him despite the huge public backlash.
Kwarteng just said Cummings had now left the government, so the Radio 4 presenter moved on to question Kwarteng about Robert Jenrick, the former housing secretary.
He asked: “What about the housing secretary when he gave planning permission to a Tory donor?”
The senior minister just denied that was his recollection of what happened.
Robinson then pointed out how Priti Patel has been accused of bullying Westminster staff.
He said: “The home secretary was found guilty of bullying and the ministerial adviser on the conduct of decision left their job because they were ignored?
“Was that a way of getting integrity and probity into public life?”
But the energy minister just said the home secretary is “very moral” and “holds herself to high standards of conduct”.
Kwarteng also told reporters, “I don’t feel shame at all”, about voting against the suspension of Paterson on Thursday morning.