Rishi Sunak grilled on ‘more constructive ways to help’
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While it was pointed out Rishi Sunak’s tweet last night to back the Prime Minister was not as “fulsome” as it could have been after Boris Johnson apologised on Wednesday for attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when the rest of the country was in lockdown. Camilla Tominey, Daily Telegraph associate editor, said he was “already setting himself apart as a first among equals”.
She said Mr Sunak’s absence from Parliament on Tuesday proved he “has the makings of a future PM”.
She said: “As Boris Johnson faced the most difficult day of his political career on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak was conspicuous by his absence as Conservative chatter inevitably turned to talk of the Prime Minister’s potential successors.
“The Chancellor’s hat has long been in the ring, but in managing to find himself 225 miles away from Westminster, the Treasury wunderkind, 41, is already setting himself apart as a first among equals.
“For while his allies’ insistence that the visit to a drugs manufacturer in Ilfracombe in Devon had been in the diary for days, in putting some distance between himself and an administration mired in scandal, ‘rookie Rishi’ has finally shown some of the political ‘nous’ his contemporaries had feared he was missing.”
Sources said Mr Sunak was quietly preparing his bid to take over the nation, with carefully orchestrated moves like replacing the Conservative Party logo with his Treasury graphics.
One told the Daily Telegraph: “I think as far as team Rishi is concerned, if it’s going to happen it would be better if it happened quickly.
“They don’t want him to be tainted by the cost of living crisis, which will happen the longer Boris Johnson remains in power. And let’s face it, Downing Street will be quite happy to lay the blame at the Treasury’s door.”
While Mr Sunak’s tepid support on Twitter was noted in stark contrast to the likes of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is also tipped to replace Mr Johnson.
Mr Sunak said on Twitter: “The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.”
Following speculation over why he had not publicly supported Mr Johnson earlier, he said: “I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.”
Sky News Kay Burley noted Mr Sunak’s support was not as “fulsome” as other senior Tories in an interview with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis MP this morning, telling him: “I’m feeling a bit of a flashback from when John Major had problems with his wisdom tooth so he couldn’t come out and and support Margaret Thatcher when she needed it most”.
Mr Major succeeded Mrs Thatcher in November 1990.
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While former Manchester United footballer and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville tweeted: “It’s taken Rishi Sunak 8 hours to work out how to word a tweet that would finish Johnson off but look like he was supporting him .”
It comes as Mr Johnson faces calls to quit from senior Tories following a bruising Commons appearance where he insisted he believed he had attended a ”work event”, to which more around 100 people were invited, for about 25 minutes.
ITV News reported on Tuesday an email had been sent by the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary inviting staff to a gathering in the grounds of Downing Street on May 20 2020.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said he went into the garden to thank staff for their efforts and stayed for 25 minutes.
He said: ”I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said.”With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.
“I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.”
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed MPs had witnessed a “pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road” and prompted laughter when he suggested Mr Johnson “didn’t realise he was at a party”.
The Prime Minister faced open revolt from one wing of his party, as MP for Moray and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called on him to quit.
He was joined by all 31 Tory MSPs, according to reports.
In Westminster, three other MPs joined their cause – Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet), Caroline Nokes (Romsey and North Southampton), and chairman of the Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs Committee William Wragg (Hazel Grove).
But Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed those who were calling for Mr Johnson to go as “people who are always unhappy”.
Mr Johnson’s press secretary insisted that he was not a liar and “he is not resigning”, but dismissed as “hypothetical” questions over whether that could change after Sue Gray’s report is published.
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