Cabinet minister refuses to say PM will quit if inquiry finds he broke rules over No

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A Cabinet minister has refused to say that Boris Johnson will quit even if the inquiry into the lockdown-busting No 10 party he attended finds he broke the rules.

Brandon Lewis was told that people would be “shocked” that he would not concede that no prime minister can carry on in office if they have breached their own laws.

But the Northern Ireland Secretary – who also defended Mr Johnson for trying to keep secret that he joined the party, in May 2020 – called the issue of rule-breaking “hypothetical”.

Pre-judging the inquiry would not be “helpful”, Mr Lewis said, adding: “It’s not accurate. I would always take a view based on the facts as we know them. We don’t know them yet.”

But the interviewer, on BBC Breakfast, told the minister that “some people might be shocked” that any prime minister could “remain in place” in such circumstances.

“It seems like a pretty good point of principle – which is, if the prime minister breaks the rules, then he can’t be prime minister. How about that?” Mr Lewis was told.

The clash came as Mr Johnson’s future hangs in the balance after his dramatic Commons confession that he did attend the party – while claiming he did not realise it was a party.

Tory MPs say his fate is now in the hands of Sue Gray, the Cabinet Office civil servant investigating all the No 10 parties, although it is unclear whether she will judge whether rules were broken.

Some senior Conservatives – Scottish leader Douglas Ross, rising star William Wragg and ex-minister Caroline Nokes – have called for him to quit immediately.

Amid the crisis, Tory poll ratings continue to plunge to 28 per cent in one survey – while the chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to back the prime minister before the inquiry has concluded.

All eyes are on Mr Sunak after he remained silent for eight hours after Mr Johnson’s statement, before issuing a tweet that said only that he had been “right to apologise”, pending Ms Gray’s verdict.

Meanwhile, only Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, knows whether the number of letters from MPs calling for a no-confidence vote is close to the 54 needed to trigger that contest.

Ms Gray’s report is expected as early as the end of next week, but is designed to set out the facts – which are now largely known – rather than assign blame for what took place.

Some MPs believe she may question if Mr Johnson broke the ministerial code with his early denials about rule-breaking – which could prompt a further probe by his own ethics adviser.

On BBC Breakfast, it was also put to Mr Brady that it was “absurd” that Mr Johnson will “decide what happens with that report”.

He replied that “the findings of that report will be made public and he will make a statement to parliament”.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said relatives who did not get to say goodbye to loved ones who died during the first lockdown felt “appalled, horrified and re-traumatised” by Mr Johnson’s actions.

And she said: “It’s strange that the police have not launched any kind of wider investigation given the number of pieces of evidence about what’s happening in Downing Street.”

Read More:Cabinet minister refuses to say PM will quit if inquiry finds he broke rules over No

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