Tory leadership contender Sajid Javid has insisted he was not “naive” to defend Boris Johnson over the Partygate scandal.
Javid claimed he had believed “reassurances” after reports of lockdown-breaking parties around Whitehall began to emerge in the winter.
The former health secretary – whose resignation on Tuesday in protest at Johnson’s running of the government helped spark a wave of ministerial departures that forced the PM to quit on Thursday – was asked if his subsequent defences of Johnson on the airwaves were therefore “naive”.
Javid, who was appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Morning, said: “I don’t think it’s naive. I certainly wasn’t the only one [to defend Johnson] and if anything I was probably the first one to not believe.”
He said he was bound by the collective responsibility of being in the cabinet, which meant that “it’s important when you hear things… that you think might not be the case, to give the benefit of the doubt”.
Javid’s comments came after his former cabinet colleague, and fellow leadership candidate, Grant Shapps also said he felt “hugely uneasy” defending Johnson over Partygate... while failing to recall criticising the media for reporting on the scandal in January.
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Javid, asked if he always told the truth when he represented the government on TV and radio interviews, and believed what he had been told by the PM, said: “I trusted what I was being told.
“It turns out some of the things I was told, and I said this quite clearly in Parliament when I made my [resignation] statement, didn’t turn out to be true.
“Now, I don’t know why someone would have said something to me that wasn’t true. That’s a question for them. But I trusted what I was told.”
Javid declared his candidacy for the Tory leadership contest on Saturday, and is currently one of nine MPs to have done so.