Not inevitable that Boris Johnson will have to step down, minister says

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it was not inevitable that British prime minister Boris Johnson would have to step down.

After veteran Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said that was the case, Mr Kwarteng told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “He’s entitled to his view, as I’m entitled to mine.

“Lots and lots of people have said things are inevitable and they never happened over the last few years, and I just want to wait and see.”

Mr Johnson’s premiership has been in crisis amid the ‘partygate’ scandal with key aides resigning in recent days. A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray found that alcohol-fuelled events had taken place at Mr Johnson’s offices and residence when Covid-19 lockdown rules were in force.

Mr Kwarteng said it was “perfectly reasonable” for Mr Johnson to have made the comments he did about Labour leader Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile.

The prime minister made the untrue allegation in the Commons that Mr Starmer had failed to prosecute Savile while he was director of public prosecutions. He later dialled back, admitting he had not been directly involved.

Mr Kwarteng was asked whether he would have used the same words as the PM, and told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “I think it’s entirely legitimate… it depends what the context was.”

“In that context, I think it was perfectly reasonable to mention the fact that Sir Keir had apologised. Sir Keir himself apologised on behalf of the organisation that he led about the fact that they failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

“So the fact that he apologised suggests that he does at some level bear some responsibility.”

Mr Kwarteng said he was not saying Mr Starmer had “personal blame”.

Elsewhere former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has said the Downing Street partygate saga and its aftermath has been “hugely damaging” and the public are “very angry”.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning politics programme: “Just the revelations about what’s been going on in Downing Street, when others were clearly obeying the rules and people in Downing Street somehow managed to think that those sort of rules weren’t applying to them at the time, no matter what they were doing.

“So it’s hugely damaging, damaging to the public, it’s cut through to them. They’re very angry about it. Many of them have seriously lost trust.

“These are big, big crises that are hitting the Government and the Prime Minister”.

He said the prime minister bears the “overall responsibility” for failures in Downing Street.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “The prime minister obviously is the man overall that takes responsibility but lots of people down the chain must take a huge measure of responsibility, including in the civil service for their failure to have discipline and structure — in that, he of course bears overall responsibility.”

“The whole tenor of the political debate descends into a very poor level,” Sir Iain added.

He said he had spoken to members of the public who were “in despair” over the “whole damn process” in Downing Street.

Earlier a Tory peer said there is a “strong case for change” at the top of Government , when asked if Boris Johnson should resign.

But Lord Gavin Barwell said he does not think there is “a chance in hell” that the prime minister will voluntarily step down.

The former Tory MP told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “On the moral issue, I find it very, very difficult to defend the way in which he has run Number 10 and the way in which he has tried to cover up what’s happened.

“And on the pragmatic test, which your viewers will probably have less sympathy with, about what’s the right thing for the Conservative Party to do? — I am very sceptical about whether it’s going to be possible for him to restore his standing with the British public.

“So my inclination is that the Conservative Party would be better making a change and I also think, for the good of the country in terms of trust and faith in our politics, there’s a strong case for change. But it’s not up to me to make a decision. Ultimately, this is a decision that, up until the next election at least, is one for Conservative MPs.”

Lord Barwell, the former Downing Street chief of staff to Theresa May, added: “I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that the Prime Minister is going to voluntarily resign.

“He’s going to stay there unless Conservative MPs remove him or unless he loses an election. And so, you know, I don’t see any prospect of him voluntarily standing down.” –PA

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