Rishi Sunak denies stabbing Boris Johnson in the back

Rishi Sunak says Chris Pincher groping case and economic differences with Boris Johnson forced him to walk out of government as Tory members accuse him of a ‘cynical’ move to take power

  • Former chancellor was accused of a ‘cynical’ move designed to put him in No10 
  • He resigned last month, helping prompt a walkout by more than 50 ministers
  • But when accosted by an audience member tonight he defended his actions

Rishi Sunak defended his decision to quit Boris Johnson’s government, blaming economic rows with the Prime minister and a refusal to cover up for Chris Pincher over groping allegations.

The former chancellor was accused of a ‘cynical’ move designed to put him in No10  tonight as he faced Tory members at a Sky News debate.

He resigned last month, helping prompt a walkout by more than 50 other ministers that led to the end of Mr Johnson’s administration.

Boris loyalists including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries have accused him of stabbing the PM in the back with a calculated move.

But when this was put to him by an audience member called ‘Steve’ tonight he defended his actions.

When the Tory member suggested he had been plotting for months, including setting up a campaign website last December, he said:  ‘That is simply not true. I was due to give a speech with the prime minister the next week (after the resignation) and in the conversations about putting that speech together on the economy it was clear our differences were too big to reconcile. So that was the reason.

‘Plus, let’s not look at the past with rose-tinted spectacles here. Everyone remembers what was going on with Chris Pincher. 

Tamworth MP Mr Pincher, 52, resigned as deputy chief whip in late June after being accused of drunkenly groping a man.

‘That was a serious ethical question that the government was on the wrong side of – again – and I could not defend it.

‘Maybe you are ok to defend that but I was not ok to defend it, 60 other remembers of the government were not ok to defend it, because it was wrong. 

‘And that is why we are here because we need to change things to bring trust and integrity and decency and honesty back into politics. That is what I want to do as prime minister.’

Tamworth MP Mr Pincher, 52, resigned as deputy chief whip in late June after being accused of drunkenly groping a man. 

He admitted that he had ’embarrassed himself and other people’, after drinking too much at the elite Carlton Club in London. 

The action to suspend the Tory whip from Mr Pincher was taken after a formal complaint about him was made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

But Mr Johnson was criticised for the time it took to take the action. 

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