Ministers defend Boris Johnson over failure to sack Matt Hancock

Cabinet ministers rally to defend Boris Johnson over his failure to sack Matt Hancock as Jacob Rees-Mogg says loyalty is the PM’s ‘great strength’ and premiers ‘do better’ if they don’t respond ‘all the time’ to ‘political froth’

  • Priti Patel denied failing to sack Matt Hancock made Boris Johnson look ‘weak’
  • She said there had been ‘very fast moving action’ to replace Mr Hancock
  • Home Secretary dodged the question when asked if she will miss Mr Hancock
  • Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said loyalty is Mr Johnson’s ‘great strength’ 
  • He said that it is ‘better’ if PMs do not engage with ‘political froth’ all of the time 

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel today defended Boris Johnson over his failure to sack Matt Hancock after his opponents claimed he ‘didn’t have the guts’ to fire the former health secretary.

Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Johnson’s ‘great strength’ is his ‘loyalty to the people who work for him’ and that ‘engenders loyalty in return’. 

The Commons Leader also argued that premiers ‘do better’ when they ‘don’t react all the time’ to what he described as political ‘froth’. 

Meanwhile, Ms Patel rejected the suggestion that Mr Johnson’s failure to sack Mr Hancock had made him appear ‘weak’. 

The Home Secretary said she did not accept that ‘at all’ and that there had been ‘very fast moving action over the weekend’ to replace Mr Hancock with Sajid Javid. 

Mr Hancock announced he was stepping down on Saturday evening, following the leaking of video footage showing him breaking social distancing rules by kissing an aide in his ministerial office. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg said Boris Johnson’s ‘great strength’ is his ‘loyalty to the people who work for him’ and that it ‘engenders loyalty in return’

Priti Patel rejected the suggestion that Mr Johnson’s failure to sack Matt Hancock had made him appear ‘weak’

Mr Johnson’s political opponents claimed he ‘didn’t have the guts’ to fire the former health secretary

Downing Street had said on Friday that Mr Johnson had accepted an apology from Mr Hancock and considered the matter to be closed.  

Mr Johnson appeared to try to take credit for the resignation yesterday as he suggested he had sacked Mr Hancock before Downing Street insisted that was not the case. 

Labour accused the PM of ‘trying to rewrite history because he didn’t have the guts to sack’ the now former Cabinet minister.

Mr Rees-Mogg was asked during the MoggCast podcast published by Conservative Home this morning if he believed an apology from Mr Hancock should have been good enough. 

Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘I think one of the Prime Minister’s many attractive qualities is his loyalty to the people who work for him.

‘I think this is a strength and I think it engenders loyalty in return and you know the principle of collective responsibility, you want ministers who not only support the government line because it is the government line, but support it because they back the prime minister and they want him to succeed and if that is his line they are for it.

‘That requires loyalty in return. I think that is a great strength of the Prime Minister and in spite of the Prime Minister’s loyalty, the former secretary of state has gone because his actions were incompatible with the office that he held and he recognised that.’

The Commons Leader was asked whether he believes Mr Johnson has a more relaxed approach to rules than other politicians. 

He replied: ‘I think that is a misconstruction. I think the Prime Minister recognises that a lot of rows in public life are basically synthetic.

‘If a government responds to every synthetic row you have a merry go round of ministers, you have absolute chaos and nothing happens. 

‘Most rows are “opposition doesn’t like something the government is doing and they try and pin it on an individual minister’ or you have some fantastic circumstance that people say “ah-ha” that must be terrible.

‘Let us take an example. A minister happens to sit next to somebody at a dinner. Nothing happened. There was no impropriety. The press gets frightfully excited for a couple of days and it quite rightly passes into the mists of time and it is really important to recognise there is an awful lot of froth on the top of the political sea, foam bubbling away, and prime minister’s do better if they don’t react to that all the time.

‘Indeed I think it was one of the weaknesses of Theresa May’s administration is that she responded to every bit of froth that arose.’ 

Ms Patel rejected the suggestion that Mr Johnson looked ‘weak’ by failing to sack Mr Hancock. 

She told Times Radio: ‘I don’t accept that at all, I really don’t. We saw very fast moving action over the weekend, a new health secretary appointed on Saturday evening and it was quite clear the reasons Matt Hancock explained why he had resigned.

Mr Hancock announced he was stepping down on Saturday evening, following the leaking of video footage showing him breaking social distancing rules by kissing an aide in his ministerial office

‘The fact of the matter is we are in a pandemic, the Government’s focus is absolutely the next stages as to how we move out of the pandemic and taking that action, the resignation, then appointing a new health secretary absolutely demonstrating that we are focused as a Government on getting on with quite frankly an incredible serious job around coronavirus.’

The Home Secretary dodged the question of whether she would miss working with Mr Hancock. 

‘Well look, I am in touch with my colleagues, obviously was in touch with Matt as well towards the end of last week,’ she said. 

‘I do think right now it is a moment of actually reflection as to how far we have come throughout this pandemic.’

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