Sunak 'brands partygate unsurvivable for PM and plans his leadership campaign'

29 January 2022, 18:00 | Updated: 29 January 2022, 23:19

Rishi Sunak has reportedly began planning his leadership campaign to replace Boris Johnson
Rishi Sunak has reportedly began planning his leadership campaign to replace Boris Johnson. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly said the partygate scandal is "unsurvivable" for Boris Johnson and has planned his campaign in anticipation of a Tory leadership contest.

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The Chancellor has built a draft version of a campaign website and told allies he does not believe Mr Johnson will be able to remain in his role after being embroiled in an ongoing row about lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, The Independent reports.

It comes as a Tory MP became the first to announce he intends to run to replace Mr Johnson in the event of a leadership contest.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, has been critical of Boris Johnson's Government, most recently over the way it handled the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The former solider, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been tipped as a potential option to take over as party leader - with reports of a senior Tory MP saying it would be a "relief".

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On Saturday, when the MP for Tonbridge and Malling was asked if he would still like to be PM after expressing an interest in the past, he confirmed he would and added: "It would be a huge privilege."

Mr Johnson has been under mounting pressure to step down as Prime Minister, after a string of lockdown-breaching gatherings in Downing Street and, more recently, accusations he personally intervened to help evacuate animals from Afghanistan.

Back in August, at the time of the evacuation, Mr Tugendhat expressed his disquiet at reports that ex-marine Pen Farthing's animals from his charity were being prioritised over people.

"There's quite a lot of space on the aeroplanes, they're coming and going relatively easily," he told LBC's Matt Frei.

"The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport and we've just used a lot of troops to get in 200 dogs, meanwhile my interpreter's family are likely to be killed.

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"As one interpreter asked me a few days ago, 'why is my five year old worth less than your dog?'"

That was before leaked emails last week suggested Mr Johnson personally intervened in the evacuation of the animals.

Mr Farthing told LBC on Saturday that Mr Johnson had "nothing to do with" the evacuation.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson dismissed it as "rhubarb".

Mr Sunak was deemed an early favourite for replacing Boris Johnson.

Last week, Mr Sunak said he believed the Prime Minister's words over his knowledge of the alleged Downing Street parties and added that he "wasn't going to get into hypotheticals" when asked if Mr Johnson should resign if he is found to have lied to Parliament.

Mr Sunak has been out of the media spotlight this week, with reports suggesting he is taking an "arms-length" approach to the PM.

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has also been suggested as a future Prime Minister, as have trade minister Penny Mordaunt, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary for Levelling up Michael Gove and Health and Social Care Select Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Javid, Mr Gove and Mr Hunt all ran against Boris Johnson in 2019.