Cabinet ministers insist Boris Johnson wouldn’t have to resign if interviewed by police

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Cabinet ministers have insisted Boris Johnson will not have to resign if he’s interviewed under caution by police as part of a Met investigation into alleged rule-breaking in No 10.

The Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg — a prominent defender of the embattled prime minister — claimed it wouldn’t be a “resigning matter”, as pressure builds on Mr Johnson.

It follows the explosive decision of the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick, to launch an investigation into “a number” of alleged breaches of the Covid regulations in Downing Street and Whitehall departments.

As part of the probe, The Times reported that the prime minister faced the prospect of being interviewed by Scotland Yard, either under caution when individuals are read their rights by officers, or as a witness.

Former Labour leader Tony Blair was the last sitting prime minister to be interviewed by police as a witness during the 2007 investigation into cash for honours and was said to have made clear at the time if he was interviewed under caution he would have resigned.

Pressed on whether Mr Johnson would have to resign if he was interviewed under caution, Mr Rees-Mogg told Channel 4 News: “No, of course that wouldn’t be a resigning matter, because people are innocent until proved guilty.

“And it’s worth bearing in mind that the police themselves have said that the fact they are investigating something doesn’t mean that any any crime has necessarily been committed, that they are investigating because that is what the police do”.

Asked the same question in a separate interview, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, who insisted he was “100 per cent” behind the embattled prime minister, told ITV’s Peston programme: “No, I wouldn’t go that far.

“I mean I remember the the cash for honours probe very well, I think it lasted about 16 months actually as I remember,” he added.

“It lasted a very long time, and there were very serious questions about propriety and ethics and cash for honours, people essential buying their way into the House of Lords, and it was a very thorough investigation”.

Their comments came as Mr Rees-Mogg also made an attempt to neutralise the attacks on Mr Johnson over a separate controversy regarding the airlift of animals from Kabul in the summer of 2021 when Afghanistan was seized by the Taliban insurgency.

On Wednesday, the prime minister was accused of lying to the public after new evidence emerged suggesting he personally authorised the controversial evacuation of 173 dogs and cats from the country, as people desperately attempted to flee.

But in comments that prompted jeers by MPs on Thursday, the Commons leader Mr Rees-Mogg dismissed the row as “fussing about a few animals”, and accused Labour of focussing on “fripperies and trivia”.

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