Nadine Dorries has continued to publicly back Boris Johnson after giving a toe-curlingly awkward televised interview in which she refused to answer questions on the PM, insisted he was truthful and said wider Partygate criticism was a Remainer plot.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning, Ms Dorries, 64, said the Prime Minister remained optimistic and his mood was ‘very positive’ despite a slew of his senior advisors abandoning the Government ship earlier this week.
But the Culture Secretary clashed with host Charlie Stayt as she openly questioned why she was being asked if she had recently spoken with the Prime Minister.
Mr Stayt repeatedly asked if she had spoken with Mr Johnson over the last 24 hours – to which she replied: ‘Why are you asking me that question?’ She briefly smiles at the veteran broadcaster before adding: ‘We’ve communicated’.
After an excruciating pause, a puzzled Mr Stayt then says: ‘I’m really confused. Is that a difficult question? I’m just asking if you’ve spoken to the Prime Minister’.
Ms Dorries then repeats ‘we have communicated’, before refusing to expand on her original remarks when pressed further.
Saturday marked a whirlwind morning of media interviews for the Culture Secretary, who faced criticism for her ‘car crash’ BBC Breakfast interview, suggested a Remainer plot was contributing to the Tory Party’s internal strife and mixed up two Conservative MPs with similar names.
In later comments, Ms Dorries added the premier always tells the truth ‘to the best of his knowledge’, and pointed at information given to him by advisors and aides.
Meanwhile, she suggested those criticising the PM over Partygate were ‘ardent supporters of Remain’ who saw this as their last chance to reverse Brexit.
This week, the PM was rocked by the dramatic resignation of his long-serving policy chief Munira Mirza, one of the last aides remaining from his days as London mayor at City Hall.
And Met Police officers investigating the Partygate scandal have reportedly been handed a photo of the premier holding a can of beer at his lockdown birthday party in June 2020.
Mr Johnson is desperately trying to see off the growing threat of brewing Tory civil war, as more than a dozen Conservative MPs have written no confidence letters and called on him to stand down.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has continued to publicly back Boris Johnson after giving a toe-curlingly awkward BBC Breakfast interview in which she insisted he was truthful
Ms Dorries, 64, insisted the Prime Minister was optimistic and his mood was ‘very positive’ despite a slew of his senior advisors abandoning the Government ship earlier this week
BBC Breakfast host Charlie Stayt (left) repeatedly asked if Ms Dorries had spoken with Boris Johnson over the last 24 hours – to which she replied: ‘Why are you asking me that question?’
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was snapped staring at the premier by cameras in the House of Commons while Boris Johnson spoke at the despatch box at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday
Boris Johnson, pictured here after the Cabinet reshuffle in February 2020, was allegedly photographed with a beer during his lockdown birthday party in June 2020 which is now being investigated
A THIRD OF TORY VOTERS THINK THE PM SHOULD RESIGN
A YouGov survey carried out on behalf of the Times has found that one in three Conservative voters who backed Boris Johnson at the last election now think he should resign.
The survey was carried out before the resignations on Thursday and Friday and found that 60 per cent had lost confidence in the PM.
When asked if Mr Johnson should step down should he be fined by the police, the proportion who said yes shot up to 67 per cent.
If Boris Johnson is cleared but his staff are implicated, this drops to 51 per cent, according to the Times.
Ms Dorries has asserted herself as one of Mr Johnson’s most outspoken public defenders in recent months since she became a cabinet member in September.
She has frequently used Twitter and media interviews to shoot to the defence of the embattled PM, calling out Tory MPs who have publicly declared their intent to submit letters of no-confidence.
After surviving the brunt of Partygate criticism following Sue Gray’s report, Mr Johnson’s premiership was rocked further after his long-standing policy chief Munira Mirza quit on Thursday over his refusal to apologise for his explosive claim that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.
In her resignation letter, Ms Mirza said she had demanded Mr Johnson publicly retract his comments, as disillusioned Tory backbenchers pressed ahead with a brewing Tory civil war.
The remarks, made to Sir Keir during angry Commons exchanges this week, have also faced noisy criticism from moderate Tory MPs already wobbly about the PM’s future.
But Mr Johnson’s survival battle is set to be dealt another blow by the publication of a biography portraying him as little more than the puppet of his wife Carrie.
The explosive book by Lord Ashcroft presents him as a weak Prime Minister who enrages his advisers by allowing his wife to influence policies and appointments.
The Tory peer claims Mr Johnson, 57, is ‘completely mesmerised’ by his 33-year-old wife and cuts a ‘lonely’ figure surrounded by her close friends who are now among his most influential aides.
The biography of Mrs Johnson advances the theory that faultlines in her relationship with the Prime Minister have had an impact on No 10, with one source describing it as ‘a Greek tragedy’.
Ms Dorries said those speaking out against the PM were ‘the same names that we continually keep (hearing) cropping up’ and were in ‘safe seats’.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Culture Secretary said Boris Johnson tells the truth ‘to the best of his knowledge’ based on advice given to him by aides.
But she said: ‘What I would say is that the Prime Minister, when he appeared for the (19)22 Committee last week, promised to change and I think anybody who picks up a newspaper or reads a newspaper, sees a television news bulletin, can see that a huge amount of change is under way at present, particularly in No 10.’
Nadine Dorries has asserted herself as one of Mr Johnson’s most outspoken public defenders in recent months since she became a cabinet member in September
Those watching on this morning quickly took to Twitter to react to Ms Dorries’ comments as some lambasted her ‘unnecessarily aggressive’ answers
Those watching on this morning quickly took to Twitter to react to Ms Dorries’ comments as some lambasted her ‘unnecessarily aggressive’ answers.
@HalyconNash wrote: ‘Unnecessarily aggressive and defensive answers from Nadine Dorries as per on BBC Breakfast.’
Richard Allen tweeted: ‘Well that was an awkward interview with @NadineDorries, not so much with Charlie’s questioning but with some guilty like reactions to them, refusal to answering them is a bit like the ‘No Comment’ in police interviews.’
Michael Davies added: ‘Can’t believe I’m saying this but I am sorry that I missed the Nadine Dorries interview.’
Andy Dobson joked: ‘Nadine Dorries’ insurance premiums must have skyrocketed this month with all the car crashes she’s been involved in.’
The Culture Secretary also mixed up two Tory MPs with similar names while defending Mr Johnson during her round of media interviews on Saturday morning.
Boris Johnson has reportedly been told to sack Rishi Sunak after the Chancellor publicly rebuked the PM over his claim that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile
Mr Johnson was hit by the shock resignation of policy chief Munira Mirza (left). Shortly afterwards it emerged the PM’s communications chief, Jack Doyle (right), was also departing
Former Minister Nick Gibb brings the number of Tory MPs who have now publicly called for Mr Johnson to resign to 15 as he said the PM had not been truthful in his Partygate explanations
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pictured with constituents yesterday, is among the favourites to replace Mr Johnson
‘Sue Gray gave police photo of Boris Johnson standing next to Rishi Sunak and toasting the camera with a can of beer during his lockdown birthday party’
Police officers investigating the Partygate scandal have reportedly been handed a photo of Boris Johnson holding a can of beer at his lockdown birthday party in June 2020.
The picture features the Prime Minister raising a can of Estrella standing next to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Downing Street Cabinet Room as he toasts towards the camera, according to the Mirror.
The newspaper reports that a source said the photograph was taken by Mr Johnson’s taxpayer-funded official photographer Andrew Parsons and has now been turned over to investigators.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured here at a Wolverhampton pub in 2019, was allegedly photographed with a beer during his lockdown birthday party which is now being investigated
The image is thought to be one of the 300 photos compiled by Sue Gray who was leading the inquiry into the scandal which have now been handed to the Metropolitan Police.
The Prime Minister is believed to appear in some of the 300 photos now in the hands of the Met with an earlier report claiming Mr Johnson was pictured in front of some wine bottles.
Other images gathered by Sue Gray are thought to include security footage which show when certain people arrived and left each gathering that is being investigated.
Sue Gray’s update on the Partygate scandal revealed 12 events held in Number 10 and across Whitehall are now subject to formal police investigations.
They include Boris Johnson’s birthday, a bash in the PM’s Downing Street flat to celebrate the exit of Dominic Cummings and Number 10’s Christmas party on December 18, 2020.
Two separate events held in Number 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral are also being probed.
Former Tory minister Nick Gibb became the 15th MP to publicly call for Mr Johnson’s resignation after he said the Prime Minister had not been truthful in his explanations of parties reportedly held in No 10 and across Whitehall during Covid measures.
Tory MPs are expected to consider over the weekend whether to write to the chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham in an attempt to force a leadership contest.
In an apparent move to head off further rebels, Mr Johnson has written to Tory MPs promising them a greater role in policymaking with a ‘direct line’ into No 10.
But Ms Dorries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that dissenting comments from Nick Gibb and Aaron Bell were ‘disappointing’ but said those in ‘marginal seats’ knew the PM had won them the election.
She suggested those operating with slim majorities were ‘working damn hard and they want Boris Johnson in place’.
She was then asked about the 2019 intake on Red Wall MPs – of which Mr Bell is one in his Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency.
But the Culture Secretary said: ‘So you want to cite Aaron Bell, again disappointing, I’ll talk about Martin Vickers, who’s up in the far North of England in South Tees.
‘I’ll talk about Martin Vickers who is out there supporting the Prime Minister, listing on Channel 4 News the other night the huge number of funding and initiatives that he’s delivered in his constituency.’
Martin Vickers is the MP for Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire and has been an MP since 2010. He currently has a majority of 21,418.
But, she was likely referring to Matt Vickers, who is MP for Stockton South (majority 5,260), in the Tees Valley, and was elected in 2019. He told Channel 4 on Wednesday: ‘Teesside’s got a lot to be happy about.’
Ms Dorries later suggested those who were against the Prime Minister were Remainers who wanted to get back at the PM for his role during Brexit.
She told Times Radio: ‘There are a small number of voices, whether they are people who were ardent supporters of Remain, who see this as their last opportunity to reverse Brexit.’
Asked whether the moves against Boris Johnson were a ‘Remainer plot’, Ms Dorries said: ‘There are a number of reasons actually, it’s not just one, but that certainly is at play with a group.’
She said it was ‘important that people don’t get hung up’ on a ‘small number’ of MPs.
Reacting to claims made about the number of people in work, Ms Dorries said on Saturday: ‘He will have been given by advisers and researchers the fact that there were more people in work than there were at the beginning of the pandemic, not on the payroll.
‘So did he tell the truth when he quoted that? Yes, he told the truth as it was given to him. The Prime Minister does tell the truth.’
‘I can personally tell you that the Prime Minister, when he stands at the despatch box and makes quotes like the one you just quoted, is because the researchers and his advisers will have given him that quote, and that’s… and he was truthful, to the best of his knowledge, when he made that quote,’ she said.
And the Culture Secretary later said Rishi Sunak was ‘entitled to his views’ over the Prime Minister’s claim about Sir Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile – despite some internal calls for the PM to sack the Chancellor over his ‘wavering’ support.
Ms Dorries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘anybody who leads an organisation, like the Prime Minister leads the Government or Keir Starmer led the Crown Prosecution Service, when something goes wrong, you take responsibility and you apologise’.
Asked about the Chancellor saying he would not have made the comments, Ms Dorries said: ‘Rishi Sunak is entitled to his views and you know, he’s entitled to say… make any comments that he wants to.
‘What I would say is that when you lead an organisation, you are responsible, the responsibility lands on your desk for what happens within that organisation when you’re leading it.’
It comes days after Ms Dorries faced a wave of online memes and mockery as a picture showed what appeared to be her staring into Mr Johnson’s eyes.
The Culture Secretary was snapped staring at the premier by cameras in the House of Commons while Mr Johnson spoke at the despatch box at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
The picture soon went viral and sparked hundreds of memes on Twitter, with envious online users saying they wished their partners looked at them the same way Ms Dorries had gazed at Mr Johnson.
Some questioned whether it was a ‘look of love’, while others quipped that Valentine’s Day is still more than a week away.