Rishi Sunak Dodges Question Over Support For Boris Johnson By Breaking Off Interview

The chancellor said he believed the PM's version of events following claims from former aide Dominic Cummings that he lied to parliament.
Sunak said Sue Gray must be allowed to get on with her investigation into various Downing Street parties.
Sunak said Sue Gray must be allowed to get on with her investigation into various Downing Street parties.
Sky News

Rishi Sunak abruptly ended a broadcast interview when asked whether he “unequivocally” supported Boris Johnson over parties in Downing Street.

The chancellor said he believed his boss’s account of events — which has been called into question by former chief adviser Dominic Cummings — but turned down an opportunity to declare he supported Johnson “unequivocally”, instead choosing to break off the interview.

Sunak’s appearance comes following criticism from Johnson allies that he abandoned the PM on the day he was forced to apologise to the Commons for attending a “bring your own booze” event in the No.10 garden on May 20, 2020.

At the time the chancellor was on a trip to North Devon accompanying the local MP. A tweet backing the prime minister came hours after many of his colleagues and was seen as being lukewarm in its support.

The pressure on an already embattled Johnson intensified yesterday when Cummings claimed the prime minister was warned about allowing the event to go ahead, but that his concerns were “waved aside”.

His allegations appear to contradict Johnson’s account in the Commons in which he told MPs he “implicitly” believed the gathering to be a work event, and that he only attended for 25 minutes to thank staff before going back inside.

No.10 has repeatedly said it was “untrue” that the PM was warned in advance.

Asked whether he believed Johnson, Sunak said: “Of course I do...the prime minister set out his understanding of this matter in parliament last week, and I’d refer you to his words.”

The May 20 event is one of a string of parties alleged to have taken place in Downing Street premises during the pandemic and which are being looked at in an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Sunak referred to Gray’s investigation and added: “I fully support the prime minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.”

The issue of resignation, which was already looming large over the prime minister at the end of last week, has been brought to the fore again following Cummings’ latest allegations.

Under the ministerial code, those found to have “knowingly” lied to parliament are expected to tender their resignation.

Asked whether Johnson should resign if he lied to parliament, Sunak said: “I am not going to get into hypotheticals, the ministerial code is clear on these matters.”

Earlier, Downing Street insisted Johnson has never lied to parliament after a former aide accused him of lying over partygate.

Asked by journalists today if the prime minister had ever lied to the house, his official spokesman said simply: “No.”


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