A Cabinet minister has dismissed claims the prime minister tried to block a Downing Street leak inquiry to protect a friend of his fiancee as “tittle-tattle”.
Labour have called for an independent inquiry following a series of astonishing allegations from Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party will also attempt to haul a senior minister before parliament on Monday to answer an urgent question on the claims.
In a 1,000-word statement, Mr Cummings said:
• He was not behind the leak of WhatsApp messages between Mr Johnson and billionaire Sir James Dyson
• The PM suggested halting a Downing Street leak inquiry as it might have implicated a friend of his fiancee Carrie Symonds
• Mr Johnson attempted a “secret” plan to have Conservative donors to pay for the renovation of his Downing Street flat.
However, asked about Mr Cummings’s claims, international trade secretary Liz Truss condemned the allegations as a “massive distraction”.
“I think this issue is a massive distraction from what we should be focussed on, which is how we are recovering from the pandemic, the vaccination programme and the work we’re doing to rebuild the economy,” she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday show.
Ms Truss stressed Mr Johnson had “met the costs of the refurbishment” of his Downing Street flat himself and had “acted completely in line with the rules”.
However, she failed to say when the prime minister paid the costs, amid suggestions a Conservative donor had initially offered up a £60,000 sum.
“All the details will be given out in line with the rules,” Ms Truss added. “There are certain reporting procedures and those procedures are being followed.”
Meanwhile, asked about the claim that Mr Johnson tried to stop a leak inquiry, Ms Truss dismissed the allegation as “tittle-tattle that’s being promoted and don’t think it really addresses the key issues that people in Britain really care about”.
“The leak inquiry is ongoing and, of course, I hope it finds who the individual was who conducted this leak because it’s very, very unhelpful when confidential is leaked from the government,” she added.
She also failed to answer when a new independent adviser on ministerial standards would be appointed, but said the role would be filled “shortly”.
Labour’s shadow home office minister Jess Phillips described the Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings row as “scrapping between two very powerful men who seem more interested in who’s lying about what and who’s leaking what than the substantive of the issue”.
“What we need is a proper independent inquiry that isn’t about two boys fighting and is about taxpayers,” she added.