Sunak Dodges Question on Whether He Wants to Replace PM Johnson Three Times Amid Soaring Popularity
There have been multiple reports indicating a rift between the British prime minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Boris Johnson allegedly threatened to demote him to health secretary over a leaked letter by Rishi Sunak calling for relaxing COVID restrictions for travellers.
Rishi Sunak has dodged a question on whether he would like to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister when the time comes - not once, but three times.
"What I am focused on is the economy, jobs, recovery. We are actually in lockstep on making sure we secure our recovery and today’s figures show that the plan that we put in place, the plan for jobs, is working,” Sunak said, ignoring the question.
Sunak appeared on ITV on Thursday as polls revealed that 56 percent of Tory voters want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to step into Boris Johnson's shoes when he leaves office, while some 47 percent of Conservatives believe that the handover should occur within the next 12 months.
"I don’t pay much attention to all of these things so i don’t think there is anything more I can add to that. Like every Cabinet minister I work for the Prime Minister and he and I work really well and really closely together as people have seen over the past 12-18 months," Sunak said on ITV.
The letter suggested the coronavirus restrictions were damaging the economy and leaving the UK at a disadvantage to its European Union rivals.
The Sunday Times had reported that Johnson was aware of Sunak's letter calling for the easing of travel rules when details of it appeared in the media, as cabinet ministers were set to meet to set the travel guidelines that will be in place for most of August.
The newspaper said the leak left Boris Johnson “apopleptic”, “raging” and “f***ing tonto”, as the prime minister wondered who was behind it as well as questioned the motives of the leaker.
The letter appeared to undermine agreed policy and make it look like the Treasury was trying to pressure him into action, and ostensibly prompted Johnson to suggest demoting Sunak at a private meeting with aides:
“He said: ‘I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe it’s time we looked at Rishi as the next secretary of state for health. He could potentially do a very good job there. In an open meeting, after ranting about Rishi, he then suggested the chancellor could be demoted in the next reshuffle," The Times cited a senior government source as saying.
The mishap has since been blamed on No 10 Downing Street employees, who are thought to have failed to draw Johnson's attention to the letter.