UK’s Indian-origin Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that the raging controversy over Downing Street parties has damaged public trust in the government, but insisted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is facing growing calls for his resignation, has his “full support.” Sunak, who dismissed talk of him replacing Johnson, said that the Prime Minister had always told the truth about the parties, the BBC reported.
“Yes, of course he does. He is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” Sunak, 41, said.
“Yes, I think it has. I can appreciate people’s frustration. And I think it’s now the job of all of us in government, all politicians, to restore people’s trust,” Sunak said this week when asked whether parties held in violation of COVID-19 lockdown rules had damaged the public’s confidence in the government.
His comments come after Johnson’s five aides, including longstanding policy chief Munira Mirza, chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, and communications director Jack Doyle all resigned from their posts within hours of each other on Thursday, after a damning investigation revealed that multiple parties took place at Downing Street while the rest of the United Kingdom was living under strict COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Sunak, who lives next door to the Prime Minister in Downing Street, is also reported to have attended a surprise birthday party for Johnson in No. 10’s Cabinet Room in June 2020.
When asked whether he had been aware of multiple gatherings during lockdown, Sunak said: “People seem to think that I’m spending all my time there staring out of this window behind me… [But] I spent half my time in the Treasury, as well as working here.” As an embattled Johnson faces intense pressure to step down from the opposition and Conservative MPs, some Tory MPs believe that Sunak, as one of the most powerful figures in the government, is the frontrunner to replace Johnson.
But Sunak quelled such talk.
“Well, that’s very kind of them to suggest that,” he said. “But what I think people want from me is to focus on my job.
“I know a few of my colleagues have said that and they’ll have their reasons for doing that. But I don’t think that’s the situation we’re in. The prime minister has my full support,” he told the BBC.
When asked whether he would run to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, should there be a vacancy, Sunak said: “No, that’s not what I’m focused on.” Sunak, the UK-born son of a pharmacist mother and a National Health Service general practitioner father, is an Oxford University and Stanford graduate.
The MP for Richmond in Yorkshire first entered the UK Parliament in 2015 and has quickly risen up the Tory party ranks as a staunch Brexiteer, who had backed Johnson’s strategy to leave the European Union.
As the first Chancellor of the Exchequer of Indian heritage, Sunak, also the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, made history in February 2020, when he was appointed to the most important UK Cabinet post.