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Rishi Sunak: I did not ‘wield the dagger’ to bring down Boris Johnson

The i 09/08/2022 Daniel O'Mahony
Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson during a Cabinet meeting in June (Leon Neal/Pool via AP/Getty) © Provided by The i Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson during a Cabinet meeting in June (Leon Neal/Pool via AP/Getty)

Rishi Sunak has insisted he did not “wield the dagger” that led to Boris Johnson’s downfall.

The former chancellor defended himself over the accusation at a Tory leadership hustings on Monday evening.

Mr Sunak was the second Cabinet minister to quit last month, minutes after health secretary Sajid Javid resigned – but as chancellor his departure hastened Boris Johnson’s resignation.

At the fifth membership hustings, held in Darlington, a Conservative Party member named Alan told Mr Sunak: “Shakespeare said he who wields the dagger will never inherit the crown.”

Appearing irritated – and with some of the crowd booing Alan’s question – Mr Sunak replied that he had been “sad” to resign but added: “Respectfully, you are simply wrong to say that I wielded the dagger, because you know what? It wasn’t just me who felt that enough was enough.

“The Government was on the wrong side of yet another ethical decision.”

Mr Sunak said he had been one of 60 MPs who quit the Government in just three days before Mr Johnson eventually announced his resignation.

It is not the first time the ex-chancellor has faced questions from Conservative members at hustings over his role in Mr Johnson’s resignation.

Mr Sunak told the audience that it was the Prime Minister himself who was responsible for his downfall.

During the leadership battle Liz Truss has tried to capitalise on her rival’s resignation from the Cabinet by insisting several times that she remained loyal to the Prime Minister.

Earlier at the hustings, not far from his constituency home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, Mr Sunak had appeared to be in his element, cracking jokes with the audience and saying: “It’s great to be home.”

However, he is still the underdog in the contest, with several polls suggesting Ms Truss will win by a landslide on 5 September.

Mr Sunak said he would accept a Cabinet job under a prime minister Truss, but she did not pay the same compliment to her rival.

The former chancellor said he would be happy to get in a room with the Foreign Secretary and Mr Johnson to talk about future cost of living support, but added that at the end of the day Ms Truss’s tax-cutting plans are “not going to work”.

His comments follow those of Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), who said that the Prime Minister and the two contenders to replace him should “come together to agree a common pledge to support people and help quell fears”.

Asked if he would get together with Ms Truss and Mr Johnson and decide additional support prior to 5 September, Mr Sunak said he was “happy to do that”, but that the answer to that question was at stake in the contest.

He added: “If you only want to help these people with tax cuts – I’m struggling to see how it’s possible.

“So we can get in a room all you want, but at the end of the day that policy is not going to work.

“So if you can get Liz to change her mind on that when she talks to you I’m very happy to get in the room and we can hammer this out.”

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