It was all to do with a pesky lack of mobile and wi-fi coverage.
Nadine Dorries appeared to decide credulity was overrated on Thursday night when she declared the reason the chancellor didn’t back the PM for almost 24 hours after new party-gate revelations was simply because he didn’t have signal while visiting Ilfracombe in Devon.
“The Chancellor was on a long-planned visit down to Devon on the coast where, as we all know, the signals and the wifi – the wifi and broadband – which is something that the MP for that area that he was with, Selaine Saxby, is constantly lobbying for,” the culture secretary said. “We know it doesn't have great signal down there."
But, while the region has indeed long-called for better services, the suggestion that the actual Chancellor of the Exchequer was in an actual communications blackout while visiting a town of 11,000 people have – safe to say – not necessarily been taken seriously.
“I am writing this on parchment,” one south-west Twitter user posted. “I hope that you will receive my reply to your tweet before the end of the year.”
Indeed, The Independent can now exclusively confirm that Peel Illfracombe – the advanced manufacturing plant Mr Sunak was visiting – is, indeed, blessed with working mobile signal, wifi and broadband. For the avoidance of doubt, there is electricity and running water too.
“Yes, we have working phone lines,” a puzzled receptionist said down the, er, phone. “Yes, we have broadband.”
Even the area’s Tory councillor seemed a touch surprised by Dorries’ suggestion.
At 9am on Friday morning, Paul Crabb’s mobile was working as clear as a bell. “It can depend what network you’re with and where in town you are,” he said. “I suppose there’s a remote chance he didn’t have a singnal.”
What? All day? A pause. “I can’t speak for [Nadine],” the councillor decided.
Since we had him, however, what did he and other Ilfracombe Conservatives make of the stream of revelations about illegal parties held at Downing Street during various coronavirus lockdowns?
“These are all self-inflicted wounds,” he said. “They’re disappointing and they’re unnecessary.”
As it happens, he met Mr Sunak during his visit. His verdict? “Very impressive,” he said. “I like him a lot.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies