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Updated January 2nd, 2024 at 17:57 IST

Rishi Sunak faces calls for inquiry for ‘secret meetings’ in breach of ministerial code

Number 10 confirmed the talks between the two British officials, saying that it largely remained about “politics and campaigning."

Zaini Majeed
uk
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, ex Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and his aide Dominic Cummings. | Image:AP
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Accused of ‘spectacularly poor judgement,’ British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is facing calls for inquiry from the angry Tory MPs over ‘secret meetings’ with ex-chief advisor of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Dominic Cummings met with Sunak for a dinner in North Yorkshire in July 2023, as well as on one other occasion along with his chief of staff, Liam Booth-Smith, in December 2022, The Sunday Times is reporting.

Number 10 confirmed the talks between the two British officials, saying that it largely remained about “politics and campaigning, but [as opposed to claims made by some MPs] no job was offered.”

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A letter was handed to Sir Laurie Magnus, Sunak's adviser on ministerial interests, urging to open an investigation into the conversation held between Sunak and Cummings. The details of the talks have been kept confidential. Sunak, who brought back Cummings to re-run during Tories election campaign, held at least two meetings with Cummings.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London. (AP)

‘No job was offered’

Cummings, in a blog post, confirmed the meeting with Sunak as taking place between December 2022 and July 2023. ‘No job was offered,’ Downing Street officials, in defence of Sunak, were quoted as saying, doubling down on the speculations about talks that have taken place. During the Conservative contest of July 2022, Sunak outrightly rejected any association with Cummings, noting that he would have “nothing to do” with his government following Boris Johnson and Liz Truss’ ouster.

The Liberal Democrats berated Sunak for not cutting ties with Cummings, as they questioned the British Prime Minister’s credibility over his failure to declare the ‘secret’ talks. This, they purported, was 'a clear breach of the ministerial code.’

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“I just cannot believe that after everything that has happened - and bearing in mind he was asked about it in the leadership campaign and said he would never do it - that has met him not once, but twice,” one former Cabinet Minister was quoted as saying by the British newspaper The Telegraph UK. He continued, “It is poor judgment and deeply disappointing [on part of Sunak] that this has happened frankly. It will incense a lot of people across the party, and not just those on the centre-Left. I know that Prime Ministers have informal meetings but we thought there would be transparency in declaring who came in and out of No 10. This, by contrast, was supposedly cloak and dagger stuff.”

MPs demand scrapping confidentiality of talks; ‘breach of Ministerial Code’

UK’s chief whip Wendy Chamberlain who wrote to Laurie, maintained that the Ministerial Code requires MPs to publish the details of the meetings held between the two ministers, as well as their official business must be in public domain. She urged to unveil the areas of policies that were discussed. “These reports raise serious concerns that the Prime Minister has breached the code by failing to declare the meetings in a proper way,' she reportedly said. “As a result, will you be considering an inquiry into these meetings and the possibility of the Prime Minister breaching the code?”

Cummings allegedly held discussions with Sunak about returning to Downing Street and joining British Prime Minister’s team on condition that he enacted radical reforms proposed by him. He is believed to have stated that he would “rather the Tories lose than continue in office without prioritising what’s important and the voters.” A former British cabinet minister derided Cummings, as a ‘toxic man.'

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“He [Cummings] caused chaos when he was in Number 10 before. He took down one Prime Minister [Boris Johnson] and here he is damaging another,” the MPs demanding inquiry into the matter, reportedly said.

Boris Johnson and his closest aide Dominic Cummings. (AP)

Cummings relayed to Sunak altering a budget proposal for which Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, faced mounting pressure at Number 10. The proposal gained traction on both wings of Tory party. In reference to it, Cummings proposed raising the 40p income tax threshold, doubling it from £50,270 to £100,000. As a campaign director of Vote Leave during the EU referendum in 2019, Cummings was involved in assisting the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the forefront. Later, after Johnson clutched victory, he was appointed as his chief advisor in July. Cummings found himself in spotlight after Johnson got embroiled in party gate scandal during the pandemic for driving down to Durham amid the total lockdown in November 2020 to what he explained later ‘test his eyesight.’

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Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. (AP)

Some British MPs claim that they saw the role of Cummings who according to them ‘ochestrated’ removal of Johnson, adding that they saw through the role of Sunak in it. “It is no coincidence,” one MP reportedly stated, pointing at ‘secret complicity’ between Sunak and Cummings.
 

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Published January 2nd, 2024 at 17:51 IST

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