Rishi Sunak stays silent as Cabinet ministers back Boris Johnson in Tories’ ‘Operation Save Big Dog’

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Rishi Sunak, who is widely tipped as a potential successor to Boris Johnson, has only sent a conditional message of support via Twitter
Rishi Sunak, who is widely tipped as a potential successor to Boris Johnson, has only sent a conditional message of support via Twitter

A dozen Cabinet ministers including Rishi Sunak have still not given a broadcast interview supporting Boris Johnson since his “partygate” apology last week.

A push to get ministers on the airwaves in support of the Prime Minister has taken place since the first public calls from Tory MPs for him to resign.

Telegraph analysis has found that 15 Cabinet ministers have made television and radio appearances backing Mr Johnson since Prime Minsters’ Questions last Wednesday.

They include appearances on BBC Radio Four’s Today program and PM program, BBC One’s Question Time and short interviews given to Sky News and ITV News.

But the flurry of activity, part of what has reportedly been dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog”, has not seen all ministers who attend Cabinet take part. The dozen yet to speak out are: Suella Braverman, Michelle Donelan, Nigel Adams, Mark Spencer, Baroness Evans, Thérèse Coffey, Kwasi Kwarteng, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Alok Sharma, Sajid Javid, Ben Wallace and Mr Sunak, the Chancellor.

The lack of TV and radio appearances does not necessarily mean a lack of support. Among the list are some of Mr Johnson’s most loyal supporters, including Mr Spencer, the Chief Whip, and Mr Adams, who helped steer his 2019 leadership campaign.

Watch: When have prime ministers had to apologise to the Queen?

Others have had limited availability or may not be expected to publicly comment. Mr Wallace, the Defence Secretary, spent part of last week overseas on work. Baroness Evans is the Leader of the House of Lords. Many of those listed have also tweeted messages of support.

Mr Sunak, who is widely tipped by colleagues as a potential successor to Mr Johnson, sent his own conditional message of support via Twitter on Wednesday evening.

His Tweet was seen as a lukewarm message of backing.

Ms Gray is the civil servant leading the probe into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties being held in Downing Street.

Mr Sunak is yet to appear on radio or television giving backing to Mr Johnson, unlike Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, who is also expected to run should a Tory leadership race emerge.

Other Cabinet ministers and Tory whips have warned potential successors against moves to build up support as Mr Johnson tries to address the political crisis he faces.

In a warning to those considering a push for the leadership, one Cabinet minister told The Telegraph: “Be careful what you wish for.

“History is littered with examples of prime ministerial hopefuls who’ve got their timing wrong and they were never heard of again.”

A Tory MP who is part of the whipping operation, which is in charge of party discipline, said of leadership rivals: “They would be well advised to keep a low profile. Anything they do now would be counterproductive.”

Advisers to both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have denied their bosses are on leadership manoeuvres and insist they remain loyal to Mr Johnson.

But their meeting and socialising with Tory MPs over recent months have been viewed with suspicion by the Tory whips.

Ms Truss’s drinks events with Tory MPs have been “Fizz with Liz” and her meetings with donors “Biz with Liz”, while Mr Sunak often meets MPs to discuss Treasury policy.

Ms Truss, who came top in a recent poll of Tory members about who should be the next party leader, has been more publicly supportive of Mr Johnson than Mr Sunak since the Prime Minister’s apology on Wednesday over allegations of lockdown-breaking parties.

Ms Truss tweeted that day: “The Prime Minister is delivering for Britain - from Brexit to the booster programme to economic growth. I stand behind the Prime Minister 100% as he takes our country forward.”

Watch: PM ‘contrite’ over partygate as Oliver Dowden hints at No 10 overhaul

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