Jeremy Hunt would lose a Tory leadership contest against all other potential candidates, a poll of Conservative members has found.
Research by ConservativeHome, published on Monday, found that if the former health secretary made the last two of any other leadership vote, he would lose to all other potential contenders.
It came as he refused again to rule out another tilt at becoming Prime Minister.
The candidate that Mr Hunt comes closest to was Steve Baker, receiving only 27 per cent of votes - while the former Brexit minister received almost double that, with 48 per cent.
Mr Hunt's biggest threats, according to the poll, were Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, who got 72 per cent of votes to his 14 per cent, and Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister who backed his bid in 2019. She would receive 63 per cent of votes, to his 18 per cent.
The polling of party members throws fresh doubt on whether Mr Hunt is the man who could unite the Conservatives in the event of a successful vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson.
Mr Hunt in 2019 got to the final stage of the leadership contest against Mr Johnson, but only received a third of the vote from his party.
The early stages of the Tory leadership elections involve nominations from Conservative MPs, before the final two candidates are given to the party’s membership to vote on.
On Monday, Mr Hunt continued to hint that he will run again to be Prime Minister, after refusing to rule himself out of a future contest.
When asked if he would stand, he told an event at the Institute for Government: “I think we’d have to see what the circumstances are, and make the decision on that one.”
However, he skirted questions about whether he thought that he could win either a leadership contest or general election.
“These are very hypothetical questions which I wouldn’t pretend to have got my head around remotely,” he told the audience before moving to another question.
He went on to say that the job of prime minister, even if it were one that he were to get, was not one he would particularly enjoy.
“I don’t think that job is enjoyable,” he said, adding: “I have loved my time on the backbenches, partly because it enables you to be reflective.”
Mr Hunt did give some indication of what his priorities for the direction of the party under him would be, repeating his previous criticism that he did not think that Mr Johnson can still win a general election.
He said that the Conservatives’ record on the economy is something that the party needs to fix before many voters will trust them to run the country again.
“Let me say that the next election won’t be decided on whether or not there were inappropriate parties in Downing Street during the pandemic,'' he said.
“I think the next election will be decided on the economy and the core reason that ordinary voters vote Conservative is that they believe that we will look after the economy better and therefore there will be better prospects for them and their families.
“At the moment, because of the global shocks that we’ve had, people don’t feel that confidence. So I feel the biggest single challenge is to get the economy growing again.”
That's all for today...
As polling showed he has fallen out of favour with the grassroots, senior Tory MP Jeremy Hunt dismissed "hypothetical" questions about a future Tory leadership contest.
But as a new week began in Westminster, there were fresh issues facing Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer as they look to reset their respective tenures at the top of their parties.
Mr Johnson has a difficult week ahead which will see him grilled at Prime Minister's Questions and then the cross-party liaison committee of MPs. After Downing Street's position on Chris Pincher shifted again earlier today, he will likely be pressed on what he knew when with regards to allegations about Chris Pincher.
For Sir Keir, he is seeking to make clear a new Labour position on the European Union - one which rules out rejoining the single market, or the customs union. But the Labour leader, who could also learn his 'beergate' fate as soon as this week, already faces opposition from Europhiles in the party, not least London mayor Sadiq Khan.
While both leaders are convinced they have the mandates to affect the change they see as necessary, there seem to be plenty of internal obstacles on the horizon.
Alan Cochrane: Greens’ support for Indyref2 adds to Holyrood’s growing anti-democratic climate
To veteran Labour campaigners, they were called Nicola Sturgeon’s “Gardening Wing”. I had always sought to ridicule them because of their belief that the past was best, by referring to them as the Iron Age Appreciation Society.
Nowadays, we’re not laughing at the Scottish Greens as some nutty earth-savers, but instead regarding them as a genuine and anti-democrat danger to the United Kingdom.
Patrick Harvie, their joint leader, has now been accused of abandoning the fight against climate change after backing the First Minister’s plan to turn the next general election into a vote on independence.
He rescued her from the embarrassment of failing to win the overall majority she had demanded in last year’s Holyrood election by using their eight MSPs to join her in a coalition of convenience. And now, he has said that anyone voting for his party in the next general election, due in 2024, will be assumed to support the break-up of Britain.
I have 'no sympathy' with PM over Pincher, says Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer said he had "no sympathy" for Boris Johnson in the wake of recent revelations about Chris Pincher.
Asked about Mr Pincher's as a deputy chief whip in February, Sir Keir told Sky News: "I have got no sympathy with a Prime Minister who repeatedly makes bad judgment calls.
"We have been living with a version of this story for month after month after month. Bad judgment by a man who puts himself above everything. I don't have any sympathy for him."
Analysis: Why it looks like Jeremy Hunt can't unite to win
He may be dodging "hypothetical" questions around the Tory leadership, but data released today suggests Jeremy Hunt would struggle in any real contest to succeed Boris Johnson.
Mr Hunt, the former health secretary, would lose to any hypothetical challenger among the grassroots of the party, polling by the Conservative Home website indicates.
While he has Cabinet experience, he is also regarded as a moderates in a party whose members are already frustrated by what they see as a lack of 'small-c' conservatism from the present leadership.
So while his 2019 leadership campaign revolved around the slogan "unite to win", Mr Hunt - who also backed Remain - would have work to do if he were to deliver on that rhetoric second time around.
'The best place to live in the whole of the hemisphere'
Sir Ed Davey accused Boris Johnson of "whipping Conservative MPs to vote to trash one of our greatest British values - the rule of law" in supporting the Northern Ireland Protocol.
"[He's] raising unfair taxes on millions of pensioners and families across our country," Sir Ed said. "What precisely is his plan to take our country forward?"
Mr Johnson replied: "Our plan is to help the people of this country as we are with £1,200 coming into people's accounts this month [to] build a stronger economy."
He talked up imminent reforms to planning, housing, transport and energy to "take down costs for people up and down the country" and make the UK "the best place to live and invest in the whole of the hemisphere".
PM: I raised Rwanda human rights concerns
Boris Johnson confirmed he raised human rights concerns with Rwanda's President Kagame during his visit to the country for the Chogm summit of Commonwealth leaders.
"[You] will know that that's a country that in 1994 underwent perhaps the most catastrophic, humiliating disaster that any country could undergo and whatever [you] may say about President Kagame he has brought that country back from the brink.
"He has done, I think an immense service to his country in restoring order, which his people value immensely."
Boris Johnson under pressure over defence spending
The chairman of the intelligence and security committee has grilled Boris Johnson over the defence spending target, which stands at 2.5 per cent of GDP for the end of the decade.
Julian Lewis asked if it was right to have five per cent of GDP spent on defence in the 1980s, before a shooting war in Europe, "why does he think it's adequate to spend only half that percentage by the end of this decade?"
In a suggestion the target could be amended, Mr Johnson said: "I think that we will have to spend more and logically if you protract the commitments we are making under Aukus and under the future combat aircraft system, we will be increasing our spending very considerably."
Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP, claimed it was "dangerous and foolish" that Army numbers could drop below 100,000, to which the PM replied the Army alone will have a "whole force" over 100,000.
"The key test is what are they doing and how are they equipped? How are they protected?"
'Time is running out' on grain, PM warned
Boris Johnson has been warned "time is running out" to deal with the current blockade preventing grain from getting out of Ukraine.
Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the defence select committee, urged Mr Johnson to table a resolution at the UN General Assembly for a safe haven around Odessa to ensure grain exports.
And Hillary Benn, the senior Labour MP, asked who would provide security guarantees to Ukraine if a sea corridor was established that could be exploited by Russia.
"If he is right about the urgency, we will increasingly have to look at to look at alternative means of moving that grain from Ukraine if we cannot use that sea route," Mr Johnson responded.
Boris Johnson lays into Labour over Nato
I still find it a sad reflection on the party opposite that at this critical time when Vladimir Putin is very sadly using the language of nuclear blackmail we are in a situation in which the principal party of opposition in this country has eight members on its frontbench who voted to discard its independent nuclear deterrent.
Apart from that, I welcome the terms in which the right honourable gentleman has responded.
PM: We are not breaking international treaties
In response to Sir Keir's claims in Parliament he was "breaking international treaties", Boris Johnson insisted: "That is not what is happening. We believe that our prior obligation is to the balance of the Good Friday Agreement."
Mr Johnson said world leaders he had spoken to agreed on the need for "common sense and no new barriers for trade".
Sir Keir also asked Boris Johnson if British commitments could be met in light of Mr Johnson's cuts to troop numbers.
He voiced concern about disunity in the Commonwealth on Ukraine, accusing the PM of a "divisive campaign against the Commonwealth leadership which ended up in a humiliating diplomatic failure" after Baroness Scotland was re-elected at the Chogm summit in Rwanda.
'I'd like to welcome him back'
Dominic Penna here, taking you through the rest of the day's news and developments.
Sir Keir Starmer has made light of Boris Johnson's recent misfortunes as he welcomed him back to Britain after two weeks at various international summits.
"I'd like to welcome him back to these shores," Sir Keir quipped. "They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I'd like to see if that works as a party management strategy."
But the Labour leader went on to insist the House cannot be divided on the issue of Ukraine, and welcomed the progress made at last week's Nato summit.
He said cracks must not appear in the unity of Putin's opponents.
PM: CHOGM summit 'vital' to 'counter myths' on Ukraine war
Boris Johnson said the G7 had agreed to take immediate action to secure energy supplies and to reduce price surges, including by looking at a potential price cap on Russian oil prices, as the nations try to offset the disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Turning to the Commonwealth summit in Kigali, Mr Johnson said "not every member of the Commonwealth sees Putin's aggression exactly as we do" and the summit was "vital to have the opportunity to counter the myths" about the invasion.
Boris Johnson delivers statement in Commons
Boris Johnson is updating MPs in the House of Commons on his recent trip to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, the G7 in Germany and the Nato summit in Spain.
The Prime Minister said Nato has agreed to massively increase the number of its forces at a state of high readiness and the UK will now "offer even more British forces to the alliance".
Talking about the UK's new defence spending commitment, Mr Johnson said that Britain is "likely be spending 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of this decade" on military spending.
Sadiq Khan disagrees with Keir Starmer's Brexit plan
Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, has said he believes the UK should join the EU single market as he openly disagreed with one of the main planks of Keir Starmer's new Brexit plan.
Sir Keir will use a speech this evening to say Labour is against being in the single market but Mr Khan said he believes the UK would be more prosperous if it was inside it.
Mr Khan said it is "possible to be outside the EU but be members of the single market". Told that it sounded like he disagreed with Sir Keir, he said: "Keir’s job is to be leader of the Labour Party, my job is to be the Mayor of London. That’ll mean on many occasions I agree with the Labour Party, on some occasions I may disagree.
“Londoners elected me to be their champion, their advocate. I believe that our city and our country’s future is best served being members of the single market.
“I am not the leader of the Labour Party, I don’t speak for the Labour Party, but when I see the businesses who can’t recruit, when I see the challenges we have in finance, in professional services, in construction, in tech, in film, in music, I know that our future is more prosperous or less poor being members of the single market. We can’t go back into the European Union, the British public have spoken, what we can do though is to make sure we have the least worst option. For me that is being members of the single market.”
Liz Truss calls for Marshall Plan for Ukraine
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has called for a Marshall Plan-style programme of investment to be put in place to help rebuild Ukraine.
The Marshall Plan saw the US provide financial aid to Western Europe to help it rebuild after the Second World War.
Speaking at a Ukraine recovery conference in Switzerland today, Ms Truss said the UK is “resolute” in its support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and it will “continue to lead in supporting the Ukrainian government’s reconstruction and development plan”.
Ms Truss said: “This needs to be a new Marshall Plan for Ukraine and it needs to be driven by Ukraine itself. We will push for immediate investment and to drive economic growth because it’s absolutely imperative we get the Ukrainian economy going."
Poll set back for Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt may have left the door open to another tilt at the Tory leadership (see the post below at 13.41) but a new poll of the Conservative grassroots has suggested he would lose the final head-to-head contest against every other major potential challenger for the top job.
The Conservative Home website has conducted a survey of Tory members, asking who they would vote for in a variety of potential final two combinations. Mr Hunt finished runner up against every hypothetical challenger he faced.
For example, 59 per cent backed Liz Truss while 24 per cent backed Mr Hunt.
Some 55 per cent backed Rishi Sunak compared to 20 per cent for Mr Hunt and, pitted against Penny Mordaunt, Mr Hunt lost by 63 per cent to 18 per cent.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, was backed by 72 per cent of the grassroots compared to just 14 per cent for Mr Hunt.
'I am afraid these are very hypothetical questions'
Jeremy Hunt has dodged the questions of whether he could win a Tory leadership contest and potentially then the next general election.
Asked at an event hosted by the Institute for Government think tank if he could win the two contests, Mr Hunt said: "I am afraid these are very hypothetical questions which I wouldn’t pretend to have got my head around remotely but thank you for asking anyway.”
Jeremy Hunt does not rule out another Tory leadership bid
Jeremy Hunt, who came second to Boris Johnson in the last Tory leadership contest, has not ruled out standing for the top job again - but he said he does not believe being prime minister would be "enjoyable".
He told an event hosted by the Institute for Government think tank: “I don’t think that job is enjoyable, let me say that, and I have loved my time on the backbenches partly because it enables you to be reflective.”
Asked directly if he would stand in a Tory contest, he left the door open, saying: "I think we have to see what the circumstances are and then make the decision on that one.”
Jeremy Hunt: Next election will be decided on state of economy
Jeremy Hunt has previously said he does not believe the Tories will win the next general election if Boris Johnson remains as leader. He repeated the stance today and also said he believes the next election will be decided based on the state of the economy.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Institute for Government think tank, Mr Hunt said: “I am on the record as saying no, so it won’t surprise you if I say that. But let me say that I think the next election won’t be decided on whether or not there were inappropriate parties in Downing Street during the pandemic, I think the next election will be decided on the economy.
“The core reason that ordinary voters vote Conservative is because they think that we will look after the economy better and therefore there will be better prospects for them and their families.
“At the moment, because of all the global shocks that we have had, people don’t feel that confidence, so I think that the biggest single challenge is to get the economy growing again.”
Sir Keir Starmer Brexit speech will be broadcast
Reports had suggested that Sir Keir Starmer’s Brexit speech at the Centre for European Reform think tank this evening was going to be behind-closed-doors and that there would not be a live stream of the event.
However, media interest has prompted an apparent U-turn and it will now be streamed and a pool reporter - a journalist from a news agency who will cover the event and then circulate the story they write - will also be attending.
It looks and feels like a significant speech by the Labour leader so it seems a bit strange that journalists were not invited to attend. At least we will now definitely be able to see what is said.
No 10 refuses to deny Dominic Cummings’ claim
Downing Street has refused to deny a claim by Dominic Cummings that Boris Johnson had referred to Chris Pincher as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him in February.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “I’ve seen those unsubstantiated source quotes and I don’t intend to respond to them.”
Told by reporters that it was not a source quote but a claim from Mr Cummings, the spokesman said: “I’m simply not going to comment on the content of what was or wasn’t said in private conversations.”
PM ‘was aware’ of ‘resolved’ allegations against Chris Pincher
Boris Johnson was aware of claims made against Chris Pincher before he was appointed to the role of deputy chief whip but they had either been “resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman was asked at lunchtime if Mr Johnson had been warned about Mr Pincher’s alleged behaviour before giving him the job in February.
The spokesman said: “At the time of the appointment the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific allegations being looked at.
“As we said this is an individual who had already served as a minister under other prime ministers. In the absence of a formal complaint it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.
“The Prime Minister was aware of media reports that others had seen over the years and some allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint. But like I say, at the time of the appointment of the deputy chief whip he was not aware of any specific allegations being looked at.”
Boris Johnson to deliver G7 statement in the Commons
Boris Johnson is expected to deliver a statement in the House of Commons this afternoon on his recent trip to the G7 and Nato summits last week.
It is normal for the PM to address the Commons after attending a major global summit. The Commons sits from 2.30pm today and if there are no urgent questions the PM should be on his feet just after 3.30pm.
'Labour will do no deal with the SNP'
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has accused the Conservative Party and the SNP of stoking “bitterness, division and anger”. He also insisted Labour would not make an election deal with the SNP.
He said in a Fabian Society speech: “Boris Johnson is a gift for the SNP. Every time they fail, they either shout independence or say at least not as bad as that lot over there… another Tory government is precisely what the SNP wants too because it allows them to continue their grievance campaign.”
He also said: “For more than a decade, the SNP and the Tories have stoked up bitterness, division and anger and created a politics of us versus them."
He also emphasised: “Labour will do no deal with the SNP.”
Scottish Labour leader blasts Nicola Sturgeon over Indyref2
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar delivered a speech in Westminster this morning in which he claimed Nicola Sturgeon “wants to pit Scot against Scot for her own obsession” in her renewed push to hold a second referendum on independence next year.
At an event hosted by the Fabian Society think tank, he said: “While households stared at their soaring energy bills, rising water bills, astronomical prices at the petrol pumps, and steeper costs at the checkout, Nicola Sturgeon prioritised her obsession with division.
“The SNP is trying to drag people back into the arguments of the past because it has no ideas for the future”.
Analysis: Labour's Brexit plan
Critics are likely to describe Sir Keir Starmer's five-point plan to "Make Brexit Work" as a bit woolly.
The pledges to "sort out" the Northern Ireland Protocol and to "tear down unnecessary trade barriers" are extremely broad and it is unclear exactly how Labour would persuade the EU to give significant ground when the Government has so far failed to do so.
Sir Keir will argue that acting as an "honest broker" would lead to a deal being done but the EU's negotiating mandate on protocol issues is fixed and it is unclear whether being a bit nicer and improving relations would actually result in a major breakthrough.
While the plan on what Labour wants to do to improve the Brexit deal may be a bit woolly, the red lines on what the party would not do are fairly clear.
Sir Keir will hope that ruling out rejoining the EU and insisting there will be no return to freedom of movement will win over Leave voters who may have abandoned the party in recent years. But the moves will risk a rebellion among some of his own MPs.
Labour leader criticises Tory Brexit record
Sir Keir Starmer will claim this evening that the Tories have "no idea" how to "deliver on the promise our country has" as he sets out his plan to "Make Brexit Work".
Sir Keir will deliver an address to the Centre for European Reform think tank in which he will argue the 2016 vote to leave the EU is "now in the past".
He is expected to say: "But the hope that underpinned that vote, the desire for a better, fairer, more equitable future for our country is no closer to being delivered.
"We will not return to freedom of movement to create short term fixes. Instead we will invest in our people and our places, and deliver on the promise our country has.
"If we are to restore faith in politics as a force for good, we must now get on with delivering on that promise. The Tories have no idea how to do it. Labour does. Labour has a plan. And this plan, a plan to 'Make Brexit Work', is the first stage of delivering on that change and delivering a better future for our country."
Sir Keir Starmer's five point plan to 'Make Brexit Work'
Sir Keir Starmer's plan to "Make Brexit Work" consists of five main policy planks. They are:
Fixing the Northern Ireland Protocol is the "starting point". Sir Keir will say Labour would act as an "honest broker" to secure a deal with the EU to smooth border disruption.
Tear down "unnecessary barriers". Labour would "eliminate most border checks created by the Tory Brexit deal".
Support Britain's world-leading industries. Labour would seek deals with other countries for the mututal recognition of professional qualifications.
Keep Britain safe. Labour would seek a new and improved security pact with the EU.
Invest in the UK. Labour would use "green investment and a commitment to buy, make and sell in Britain to ensure we are best placed to compete on a global stage".
'We cannot afford to look back over our shoulder'
It would seem that Sir Keir Starmer's plan to "Make Brexit Work" (see the post below at 10.39) is essentially built on improving Boris Johnson's existing Brexit deal.
Sir Keir is expected to tell the Centre for European Reform that Brexit should not be reversed and that the country needs to move on from the "arguments of the past".
He will say: "There are some who say 'we don’t need to make Brexit work, we need to reverse it'. I couldn’t disagree more. Because you cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if you’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.
"We cannot afford to look back over our shoulder. Because all the time we are doing that we are missing what is ahead of us.
"So let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union."
Sir Keir Starmer to unveil new Brexit plan
Sir Keir Starmer will use a speech at the Centre for European Reform think tank this evening to set out his new plan to "Make Brexit Work".
Labour has sent out what he is expected to say.
There are four key points he will make as he tries to set in stone his party's position on the issue after many years of divisive rows.
The key points are:
Labour would not take the UK back into the EU.
The UK would not join the EU single market.
The UK would not join the EU's customs union.
There would be no return to EU freedom of movement.
Sir Keir will say that his plan would "deliver on the opportunities Britain has, sort out the poor deal Boris Johnson signed, and end the Brexit divisions once and for all”.
Shadow minister dismisses ‘beergate’ speculation
Durham Police is widely expected to deliver its verdict on “beergate” within the next few days, with Sir Keir Starmer having said he will quit as Labour leader if he is fined over the event which took place in April last year.
There has been some speculation in Westminster that if he is fined, Sir Keir could tender his resignation to the party’s National Executive Committee but it could then refuse to accept it and ask him to stay in post.
Jenny Chapman, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, rubbished the suggestion this morning as she said “Keir has been very clear about how he views this, he stood up and said that if he was fined that he would resign”.
She told Sky News: “I think it is difficult to imagine a situation as you have just described but let’s see what happens when Durham tell us the outcome of their investigation.
“I am confident that Keir isn’t going to get fined. He is somebody I know reasonably well and I just cannot see a situation where he is going to get fined in the way that people think.”
Labour questions No 10 response to Chris Pincher resignation
Downing Street said last week that Boris Johnson "was not aware of any specific allegation” about Chris Pincher before he was appointed to the role of deputy chief whip in February.
Labour’s Jenny Chapman, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, highlighted the word “specific” and claimed it is “doing a lot of heavy lifting”.
She told Sky News: “Look as well at the comment that No 10 put out that Boris Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations and I think the use of the word ‘specific’, that word is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence and we find it very, very hard to believe that the Prime Minister didn’t know about these allegations, decided to put his friend in that top job anyway and we think that is wrong.”
Labour was ‘surprised’ by Chris Pincher appointment
Jenny Chapman, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said Labour was “surprised” when Chris Pincher was appointed to the role of Tory deputy chief whip.
She told Sky News there were “widespread rumours” about Mr Pincher’s alleged behaviour.
She said: “I think there were widespread rumours. I find it impossible to believe that the Prime Minister wasn’t aware of them.”
Asked how much Labour knew, she said: “We heard rumours, just like everybody else. We were surprised that this person was put in a position where he would be responsible for welfare and discipline in Parliament on behalf of the Conservative Party.”
Will Quince rejects Dominic Cummings’ claim
Former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings has alleged that Boris Johnson had referred to Chris Pincher as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him in February.
Will Quince, the minister for children and families, said he could not imagine Mr Johnson making the comment and questioned the “credibility” of Mr Cummings.
Asked if he could imagine the Prime Minister making the remark, Mr Quince told LBC Radio: “No, I can’t. I think that quote came from Dominic Cummings who is not someone who I give a huge amount of credibility to given past experience and again, nor do I want to be drawn into sort of rumour or gossip about who said what and who may have said what in the past.
“All I know is this: I have been given a categorical assurance the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific allegation or complaint and I will go further… I don’t believe that anybody in that position, let alone the Prime Minister, if they are aware of what we are now aware of in the papers over the last three days would have appointed Chrius Pincher to the deputy chief whip position if they’d have known about that.”
‘Westminster has always been awash with gossip’
Last week, Downing Street said the Prime Minister "was not aware of any specific allegation” about Chris Pincher “before the appointment was made” to the role of deputy chief whip in February and “there was no basis to stop the appointment”.
Will Quince, the minister for children and families, was asked this morning what Mr Johnson was aware of when he appointed Mr Pincher to the role.
He told LBC Radio: “I don’t know exactly what the Prime Minister was and wasn’t aware of.”
Mr Quince said that “Westminster has always been and sadly will always be awash with rumour and gossip”.
He added: “Both last night and this morning I asked No 10 very firmly and clearly a specific question around what the Prime Minister knew and I have been given a categorical assurance that the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific allegation or complaint against the former deputy chief whip at the point at which he was appointed.”
Minister denies drawing the short straw on media round
One Cabinet source told The Telegraph yesterday that it was likely that junior ministers would be “wheeled out” on broadcast interviews this week as their more senior Cabinet colleagues are likely to try to “pull rank” and refuse to go on the airwaves.
Will Quince, the minister for children and families, denied that was the case as he told Sky News that he had been booked to do today’s morning media round “five days ago”.
He said: “I am certainly not going to defend the former deputy chief whip. The allegations are incredibly serious and I am appalled by them.
“That isn’t the case today because I was booked in four days ago, in fact five days ago I think it was, to talk about a very important childcare and early years announcement… but of course the actions as are alleged are indefensible. “I don’t think you will see anybody come forward and say anything other than that.”
'You can’t act on rumour or gossip'
Will Quince, the minister for children and families, is on the morning media round for the Government.
He was asked during an interview on Sky News why Boris Johnson had given Chris Pincher the job of deputy chief whip in February this year.
He said: “Well look, it is a fair question and I anticipated that and I spoke with No 10 both yesterday and today and I asked them firmly and clearly for an answer on this and I have been given categorical assurance that the Prime Minister was not aware of any serious specific allegation with regards to the former deputy chief whip.”
He added: “These cases are hard because like any professional organisation you can’t act on rumour or gossip and in Westminster there is a lot of rumour or gossip, it is something I try to sort of stay clear of but it is why it is also so important that where people do witness something which is clearly falling well below the standard of behaviour we should rightly expect from members of Parliament and those who work on the parliamentary estate that it is reported and we encourage everybody to come forward and whether that is the police or the parliamentary authorities so action can be taken like it was in this case with the Chief Whip and the Prime Minister the very next day withdrawing the whip.”
Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.
Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure and a Cabinet backlash over his handling of the Chris Pincher scandal.
The scandal is likely to dominate the week in Westminster and I will guide you through the key developments.