(Photo: Twitter)" data-caption="As the PM apologised, the chancellor was in north Devon. "Excited to be in Ilfracombe this morning with Selaine Saxby," he tweeted. (Photo: Twitter)" data-rich-caption="As the PM apologised, the chancellor was in north Devon. "Excited to be in Ilfracombe this morning with Selaine Saxby," he tweeted. (Photo: Twitter)" data-credit="Twitter" data-credit-link-back="" />
Rishi Sunak has finally broken his silence after being notably absent from parliament as Boris Johnson apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10.
The Commons chamber was packed in anticipation of Johnson’s first public response to the leaked email about the now notorious May 20 2020 event, where 100 people were invited.
The chancellor, viewed as a potential successor as Tory leader, was in north Devon at the time. His Twitter feed ahead of Wednesday’s statement read: “Excited to be in Ilfracombe this morning with Selaine Saxby.”
Excited to be in Ilfracombe this morning with @SelaineSaxby.
Im visiting @PallCorporation who protect & purify pharmaceutical drugs including a majority of UK Covid vaccines.
They’re announcing £60 million of investment at this site creating 200 new local jobs #PlanForJobspic.twitter.com/6EK1wT8U3E
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) January 12, 2022
Despite radio silence in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s statement at around midday, Cabinet colleagues were out in force on social media showing their backing.
Nadine Dorries, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid supported the PM’s apology, while deputy prime minister Dominic Raab told broadcasters that Johnson would be in post “for many years to come”.
Sunak eventually took to Twitter again at 8.11pm, and said the PM was “right to apologise”. Sunak wrote: “I’ve been on a visit all day today continuing work on our #PlanForJobs as well as meeting MPs to discuss the energy situation.
“The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her inquiry.”
His tweet was seized upon – with many remarking on his thinly-veiled ambitions.
Big "sorry just seen your message!" vibes https://t.co/R2pVhGT1Rm
— Esther Webber (@estwebber) January 12, 2022
Rishi oh Rishi. You shouldn’t have done that 😂😂😂 https://t.co/1sfoIUVcNl
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) January 12, 2022
Wonder if a FOI request would reveal when these terribly important visits were first put in the diary? My guess is Monday at the earliest… https://t.co/YcUgJkiZwP
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) January 12, 2022
Are you personally planning for any jobs that may require a lot of energy? https://t.co/qOcctiu6mP
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 12, 2022
No actual endorsement of the prime minister here 👇 https://t.co/ps1HUNzem4
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) January 12, 2022
“Err…. I’ve been on a visit….. oh and they didn’t have WiFi where I was so haven’t been able to rally to the defence of the Prime Minister but of course I support him…..” 😂
— Karl Turner MP (@KarlTurnerMP) January 12, 2022
Finally, Rishi Sunak speaks out to help out. https://t.co/jH4bBGMprz
— Anneliese Dodds 💙 (@AnnelieseDodds) January 12, 2022
I'll bet he's planning for one job. https://t.co/bsr8wyxL98
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) January 12, 2022
A flavour of “new phone who dis?” about the phrase “I’ve been on a visit all day today” https://t.co/aCHVHcj2m7
— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) January 12, 2022
The passion. The commitment. The sheer no-holds-barred authenticity. https://t.co/4dWOgrVBgj
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) January 12, 2022
Sunak’s support for Johnson is so half-hearted it’s funny https://t.co/QdjXE88fuP
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) January 12, 2022
Senior Conservatives flooded broadcast studios and social media with praise for the PM.
Dorries, first out the traps, wrote on Twitter at just after 3pm that the “PM was right to personally apologise earlier”.
She said: “People are hurt and angry at what happened and he has taken full responsibility for that. The inquiry should now be allowed to its work and establish the full facts of what happened.”
Responding to her message, levelling up Secretary Michael Gove: “Nadine is right.”
At around 9.15pm, foreign secretary Liz Truss, another thought to covet the top job, said: “I stand behind the prime minister 100% as he takes our country forward.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.