Recent revelations suggest that Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the Exchequer, was persuaded not to resign from his position following the Partygate scandal. It is alleged that executives working for media mogul Rupert Murdoch played a significant role in convincing Sunak to stay on.
The Partygate scandal emerged after Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were fined for attending a birthday party at Downing Street during the nationwide lockdown in June 2020. The details of Murdoch’s team’s influence came to light in a new book by The Telegraph’s political editor.
According to the book, Sunak shared a draft resignation statement with his allies, including former Tory leader William Hague and Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein, who both worked for Murdoch. The potential exit was also discussed with Mas Siddiqui, a director at Murdoch’s News Corp.
While it remains unclear whether a direct message was passed from Murdoch to Sunak, Johnson has reportedly claimed that Murdoch intervened to persuade Sunak not to resign.
The Pressure on Sunak
Following the issuance of a fixed-penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police in April 2022, Sunak faced mounting pressure to step down. Reports suggest that he spent hours deliberating over the decision but ultimately chose to remain in Downing Street alongside Johnson.
However, Sunak would later resign as chancellor, triggering a mass ministerial walkout that ultimately led to Johnson’s departure from No 10. Sunak’s resignation in July created a domino effect, resulting in a series of government resignations and eventually forcing Johnson’s summer exit.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Sunak maintained that he resigned due to differences in economic policy. However, it is claimed in Ben Riley-Smith’s book ‘The Right to Rule’ that Sunak had asked fellow Tory MPs in the Treasury to support him in a future leadership contest.
Johnson allegedly became aware of Sunak’s leadership ambitions and reportedly made efforts to prevent Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby from working with Sunak. Sunak has consistently denied any involvement in the Tory rebellion and insists that he left his position due to fundamental differences in economic policy rather than a desire to replace Johnson.
The Consequences of Partygate
Sunak’s resignation letter, which expressed frustration over Partygate, emphasized the need for higher standards and proper governance. Notably, Sunak did not personally inform Johnson of his decision to step down as chancellor.
In recent days, Johnson has publicly criticized Sunak and other government officials for their perceived sluggishness in providing weapons to Ukraine. The former prime minister has been at odds with Sunak’s government since his own party ousted him last summer. Disagreements over the release of Johnson’s WhatsApp messages to the Covid inquiry and the denial of a peerage for Nadine Dorries in his resignation honours list exacerbated tensions between the two.
The Partygate scandal and its aftermath have had far-reaching consequences for Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson’s political careers. The alleged intervention by Rupert Murdoch’s team to dissuade Sunak from resigning adds another layer of intrigue to this already tumultuous period. As the political landscape continues to evolve, the repercussions of Partygate are likely to be felt for some time.
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