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Boris Johnson ‘threatened to demote Rishi Sunak’ over leaked letter calling for travel restrictions to be lifted

‘Maybe it’s time we looked at Rishi as the next secretary of state for health,’ the PM is reported to have said

David Hughes
Sunday 08 August 2021 01:32 BST
Furious Johnson is said to have wanted to move Sunak to health department
Furious Johnson is said to have wanted to move Sunak to health department (Getty Images)

Boris Johnson threatened to demote Rishi Sunak after the chancellor called for travel restrictions to be relaxed in a leaked letter, according to reports.

The prime minister is said have been furious after he became aware of the letter when details of it were published in last week’s Sunday Times ahead of the announcement of the latest travel rules on Wednesday.

In a fit of frustration, Mr Johnson is reported to have said: “'I've been thinking about it. Maybe it's time we looked at Rishi as the next secretary of state for health. He could potentially do a very good job there.'”

A senior government source told the newspaper: "In an open meeting, after ranting about Rishi, he then suggested the chancellor could be demoted in the next reshuffle."

The newspaper reported that Mr Johnson is not expected to carry out his threat and noted the prime minister's reputation for off-the-cuff remarks made “half in jest”.

Mr Sunak’s letter is said to have been sent to the PM several days before details were printed in The Sunday Times. Whitehall officials blamed the oversight on No 10 staff, who apparently failed to draw the memo to his attention.

The leak of the comments, reportedly made in a meeting on Monday, will do little to help relations between No 10 and No 11.

The chancellor is preparing for a tough spending review later this year as he attempts to repair the public finances following the coronavirus crisis.

That could put him on a collision course with a prime minister who has promised there can be no return to austerity.

A Treasury source said: “The chancellor is solely focused on securing the country’s economic recovery and continuing to protect and create jobs.”

Although a reshuffle is not expected imminently, it was reported that Mr Johnson has previously considered international trade secretary Liz Truss as a potential chancellor, with Jacob Rees-Mogg as her deputy.

"The PM keeps talking about Liz Truss," a source said. “He's always got on quite well with her. He thinks she's controllable.”


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