Claims Boris Johnson tried to protect a friend of his fiancee by stopping a leak inquiry into plans to impose the second lockdown have been dismissed as “tittle tattle”.
Labour is calling for a senior minister to face questions in parliament over the growing war of words between the prime minister and his former adviser Dominic Cummings.
In an explosive blog post published on Friday, Cummings alleged Johnson intervened after he was warned the inquiry could implicate Henry Newman, a friend of Carrie Symonds.
“It is sad to see the PM and his office fall so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves,” Cummings said.
Cummings also accused his former boss of plotting an “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” plan to get Tory donors to secretly fund a lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, international trade secretary Liz Truss tried to downplay the significance of the war of words.
“This is tittle tattle that is being promoted and I don’t think it really addresses the key issues that people in Britain care about,” she told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“These noises off are simply not helpful, they are not contributing to a positive future and they don’t reflect what is actually going on in Downing Street.”
The inquiry into the “chatty rat” leak, as it is known in Westminster, of plans for a second lockdown in England is still ongoing.
Truss also said Johnson paid for the refurbishment of his official flat out of his own pocket, but was unable to say where he got the money.
“I have been assured that the rules have been fully complied with and I know that he has met the costs of the flat refurbishment,” she said.
The government has previously said Johnson paid for the revamp – reported to have cost £200,000 – out of his own pocket.
But Labour said that Johnson must to explain how he obtained the money in the first place to pay for the work overseen by Symonds.
Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said the government must publish any correspondence relating to payments or donations around the refurbishment.
“We need to know the full amount that was spent and we need to know who paid for the work in the first place, who the Prime Minister now proposes to reimburse,” the Labour MP told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Cummings’ attack on Johnson came after No 10 sources briefed newspapers the former aide was the source of a number of damaging leaks – including text messages exchanged between the prime minister and the entrepreneur James Dyson over tax matters.
On Friday, the Johnson denied trying to block the leak inquiry, saying the public could not “give a monkey’s” about such matters.
But a new Opinium survey released on Saturday revealed almost 37% of Britons described Mr Johnson as mostly or completely corrupt, compared with just 16% for Labour leader Keir Starmer.