The international trade secretary suggested Boris Johnson does not need to attend the upcoming Commons’ debate on sleaze in his own party because he should be focusing on “important” prime ministerial matters.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan provided unwavering support for Johnson during her broadcast interviews on Monday despite the ongoing row over corruption within the Conservative Party.
This was triggered by former Tory MP Owen Paterson’s breach of lobbying rules and the brief attempt to undermine the MPs’ watchdog after Conservative MPs voted not to suspend Paterson for his actions last week, before carrying out a U-turn.
While conceding she did not actually know if the prime minister would be at the despatch box as she’s in Glasgow for COP26, Trevelyan said she did not think he needed to attend.
Sky News’ Kay Burley then pointed out that the government – and the prime minister – had received an “absolute kicking” over the weekend.
Trevelyan replied: “My opinion is that he shouldn’t be there. He will, no doubt as we all do, have the House of Commons on in his office as he’s dealing with the many issues that only a prime minister can deal with, and he will get a briefing of the key issues raised by colleagues across the house later.”
Burley then pointed out that, “perception is reality” and if Johnson is absent from this pivotal debate, the public will form a certain opinion.
She listed Johnson’s recent controversies such as his lavish No.10 refurbishment, £25,000-a-week holiday in Marbella and his trip to Mustique, which have all raised questions about who is funding his lifestyle.
The news presenter claimed the public will subsequently ask if the prime minister “playing fast and loose with the rules” himself.
But Trevelyan replied: “The prime minister has followed the appropriate ministerial guidelines and registered all those activities, and in the case of staying with his very old friend Zac Goldsmith for a well-earned holiday a few weeks ago, he set out where he was, as we all do if we receive hospitality from friends or indeed others who are not close friends.”
Burley pushed: “He didn’t list it appropriately though, we both know that, don’t we?”
The international trade secretary claimed this had all been “suitably approved”.
She also maintained that the prime minister has managed an incredibly challenging time throughout the pandemic with “incredible success”, suggesting his break was well-deserved.
The international trade secretary also told BBC Breakfast that Johnson did not necessarily need to attend the debate, as he would be “focusing on the important matters today that only a prime minister can focus on”.
“My considered opinion that he will hear and be absorbing all the issues that will be raising through the debate [from afar].”
Trevelyan went on to dodge a question about whether the prime minister should apologise over the Paterson debacle on Times Radio as well.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast during a later interview, she also disagreed that there was even any sleaze in the Tory Party and said there was already a transparent system, so there was no need for a wider inquiry.
Trevelyan denied that she was being “quite dismissive” of the whole sleaze debate, and maintained that the MPs’ watchdog does need to be amended.
“We have a standards system in place and it is not perfect,” the international trade secretary claimed. She also said other colleagues – not just Paterson – felt that the MPs’ watchdog needs work.