Sunak says he had 'no choice' as he is accused of 'stabbing Boris in the back'

28 July 2022, 20:58 | Updated: 28 July 2022, 21:20

By Lauren Lewis

Rishi Sunak has said he was "left with no choice" as he was accused of "stabbing Boris Johnson in the back" when he stepped down as Chancellor.

The Conservative Party leadership hopeful told LBC's Nick Ferrari he was forced to step down because he had "a significant difference of opinion" to the prime minister on economic policy.

Mr Sunak quit as chancellor on 5 July, sparking a wave of nearly 60 resignations that resulted in Mr Johnson stepping down as prime minister and triggered a leadership race.

It came as Mr Sunak received his biggest applause of the night as he discussed Tory party members' desire to have Boris Johnson's name on the leadership ballot during a husting in Leeds.

Nick referenced reports that around 14,000 members of the Conservative Party wanted Mr Johnson's name on the ballot, pausing as clapping and some cheers were audible from some in the audience.

Asked what he would say to those members, Mr Sunak said: "I'd say to them that I think close to 60 people resigned in Parliament and it's incumbent on the Prime Minister to have the confidence of the parliamentary party, and that wasn't there at the end.

"So whether he's on the ballot or not, ultimately you need to be able to command the confidence of your MPs in Parliament, and we got to a point where close to 60 of them had resigned from Government."

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Nick asked Mr Sunak whether he would give Mr Johnson a role in the government, such as Envoy to Ukraine, after Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy called for him to retain a leadership position within British politics.

Mr Sunak said: "I'm not sure he'd want to do any of those things, Nick. This is someone who has enormous talents who I am sure can continue to make a contribution to public life."

Pressed on whether that meant he would support Mr Johnson becoming Envoy to Ukraine under his government, Mr Sunak said: "I'm not going to sit here and try to allocate jobs to people, I don't think that would be appropriate.

"I think actually now we do need to move forward, I've already been clear I don't see that being a role in the cabinet, but I'm sure Boris will continue to have a role in public life. I'm sure he's got a lot more to give."

Asked if Mr Johnson would be given a role in Mr Sunak's cabinet, he said "no".

Mr Sunak quit as chancellor on 5 July, sparking a wave of nearly 60 resignations that resulted in Mr Johnson stepping down as prime minister and triggered a leadership race
Mr Sunak quit as chancellor on 5 July, sparking a wave of nearly 60 resignations that resulted in Mr Johnson stepping down as prime minister and triggered a leadership race. Picture: Alamy

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Earlier today, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries blamed Rishi Sunak for the "ruthless coup" which led to Mr Johnson's exit from No 10.

Ms Dorries, an ally of the Prime Minister, said that, despite the nature of his exit, she is not supporting a campaign to get his name put on the ballot to decide the leader of the Conservative Party.

The Liz Truss supporter told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I am bitterly disappointed that Boris Johnson was removed by a ruthless coup, as he was, led largely by Rishi Sunak."

Asked about a petition to get Mr Johnson's name on the ballot going to Tory members, she said the Prime Minister told her "'Tell them to stop, it's not right' - they were his words, his exact words".

She also dismissed a Daily Mirror report that she might consider giving up her relatively safe seat so Mr Johnson does not have to defend his more marginal Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

Ms Dorries said the claim is "100% nuclear grade tosh".

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