Boris Johnson’s cabinet rallied around him today in a bid to put down a simmering rebellion in the Tory party that could cost the Prime Minister his job.
A series of high-profile cabinet ministers went out to bat for the PM in broadcast interviews just 24 hours after Johnson faced a chorus of calls from Tory and opposition MPs alike to resign over the Downing Street parties scandal.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the frontrunner to succeed the PM if he is ousted or steps down, was conspicuously silent after putting out only a very cautious message of support on Wednesday.
Johnson is reeling from the latest allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, with the Prime Minister all but admitting Number 10 broke its own Covid rules in May 2020.
He issued a grovelling apology to the House of Commons on Wednesday, but still maintained that he thought the boozy party in the Downing Street garden was a “work event”.
Four Tory MPs are calling for him to resign, while many others are waiting on the results of an inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray on the many allegations of lockdown-busting in parties in Downing Street throughout 2020.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC today that “I’m fully supportive of this prime minister” and that Johnson “has been clear that he believed he was acting in accordance with the rules at the time”.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the BBC he “absolutely backed” Johnson.
“I personally think the Prime Minister is the right person to be Prime Minister. I think we will be able to go forward and win a general election,” he said.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries told Sky News that she doesn’t “accept that [Johnson is] in the wrong”.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg hit out at Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, one of four Tory MPs calling for Johnson to resign, labelling him as a “lightweight figure”.
He told LBC: “I don’t think it’s a surprise that Douglas Ross takes this view. He’s never been a supporter of the Prime Minister. I don’t think Douglas Ross is a big figure, he’s been constantly in opposition to the Prime Minister [and] he is not somebody you’d ever expect to say helpful things about the Prime Minister.”
Sunak has not made a statement today, after tweeting on Wednesday night that Johnson was “right to apologise” for attending the party in May 2020 and that “I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her inquiry.”
It was widely speculated around Westminster that Sunak could be waiting in the wings to try and topple Johnson if Gray’s inquiry finds the Prime Minister knowingly broke his own Covid rules.