Rishi Sunak refuses to give his full backing to Boris Johnson and ends interview abruptly

Rishi Sunak has broken his silence on the furore over Downing Street parties – and refused to give his unequivocal backing to Boris Johnson. 

The potential successor as Tory leader abruptly ended an interview on Tuesday when pressed on whether he gave his full support to the Prime Minister.

Instead, he said he believed Mr Johnson was telling the truth and backed his request for “patience” during a Whitehall investigation by senior official Sue Gray.

So far, six Conservative MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go amid widespread public anger over claims of lockdown-breaching parties in No 10. On Tuesday morning, the senior Tory Jeremy Hunt said in an interview that his ambition to lead the party had not “completely vanished”.

The affair deepened when Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to No 10, claimed on Monday that Mr Johnson had lied to Parliament over the parties.

Downing Street denies this, but appeared to accept that the Prime Minister would have to resign if he “knowingly” misled the House of Commons.

In his first interview since Mr Johnson’s apology to MPs over the scandal, the Chancellor said he accepted the Prime Minister’s explanation that he was not warned in advance about a No 10 drinks party during lockdown in May 2020.

“Of course I do. The Prime Minister set out his understanding of this matter last week in Parliament. I refer you to his words,” he told broadcasters.

“Sue Gray is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I fully support the Prime Minister’s requests for patience while that concludes.”

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

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson had his unequivocal support, Mr Sunak swiftly broke off the interview.

The Chancellor’s hours of silence after the Prime Minister’s apology to the Commons last Wednesday over the May 20, 2020 garden gathering in No 10 had already been seen as conspicuous.

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