Rishi Sunak challenged over Partygate by factory worker whose mother died during pandemic

30 May 2024, 17:07 | Updated: 30 May 2024, 17:33

The Prime Minister was quizzed by a worker during a visit to a factory in Milton Keynes
The Prime Minister was quizzed by a worker during a visit to a factory in Milton Keynes. Picture: Getty Images

By Flaminia Luck

Rishi Sunak has been confronted over the Partygate scandal while on the election campaign by a worker whose mother died during the pandemic.

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Nick Fox, 35, quizzed the Prime Minister how he could be trusted during a staff Q&A at a cherry picker manufacturer near Milton Keynes.

The environment, health and safety officer said he lost his mother in 2020, a month after Mr Sunak attended then-prime minister Boris Johnson's birthday celebration in No 10.

"How can anyone trust you or the party after things like this?" Mr Fox asked him.

Rishi Sunak challenged on Partygate

Mr Sunak replied: "Well, I'm really sorry that you lost your mum and particularly in those circumstances, because it wasn't easy for so many people during the pandemic, the impact it had on everyone's life.

"And I can't imagine what it must have been for you not to be able to be with her at that time. It's really tough.

"And I'm sorry for what was going on in Downing Street. And for my part, I apologise that I showed up to a meeting earlier."

The Prime Minister went on to highlight his work as then-chancellor implementing the furlough scheme during the Covid-19 crisis.

He said: "As you know, I was working on things to help you and your business and many other families like that.

"And in fact, it was probably in that same period of time that you got to know me as chancellor.

"Most of you didn't know who I was before then, and I popped up on your TV screens, announced the furlough scheme ... Hopefully, some of you here benefited from some of the support that we put in place."

Read more: Child fighting for life and three adults shot as 'gunman on motorbike' opens fire outside Turkish restaurant in London

Rishi Sunak at a staff Q&A on the campaign trail at Nifty Lifts headquarters, Buckinghamshire
Rishi Sunak at a staff Q&A on the campaign trail at Nifty Lifts headquarters, Buckinghamshire. Picture: Getty

Mr Fox later said he was not convinced by Mr Sunak's answer.

"He talked about hard times and this kind of thing. They haven't tightened their belts. They gave a load of contracts to their mates and this kind of thing.

"His apology isn't accepted. I wasn't looking for an apology either."

He said he was "not really that surprised" when he found out about parties in Downing Street around the same time his mother, Christine Fox, died aged 66.

"I think we all knew things like that were going to happen. It was going to be one rule for us and another rule for them.

"It doesn't really make it any easier. It's still very frustrating."

Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson were fined for attending the then-prime minister's birthday gathering in Downing Street in June 2020.

Mr Sunak reportedly spent hours agonising over whether to resign as chancellor when he was issued with a fixed-penalty notice in April 2022, but ultimately decided against it.

Read more: Moment 'Britain's worst dine-and-dash couple' arrested by police after racking up nearly £1,200 in unpaid food bills

'Cold comfort'

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said: "Rishi Sunak will go down in history as the partygate chancellor.

"People up and down the country won't forget Sunak's involvement in Boris Johnson's lying and lawbreaking government.

"His weasel words will come as cold comfort to bereaved families who struggled during the pandemic."

Shelagh Fogarty responds to Rishi Sunak not voting on Partygate report

Last year, the Prime Minister was criticsed for abstaining on a vote over the Partygate scandal.

MPs were invited to vote for or against the Privileges Committee's finding that Boris Johnson knowingly and repeatedly lied in Parliament.The vote concluded with an overwhelming majority in favour of the report.

However, as this was a "free vote" some MPs were absent - including Rishi Sunak.

Read more: ‘I will not be intimidated’: Diane Abbott vows to fight General Election despite being ‘banned’ from standing for Labour

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