Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi has denied weekend reports that the prime minister was adopting new, dramatic strategies to save himself.
Boris Johnson was facing his toughest days on the job yet as more allegations from No10 parties emerged last week, fueling calls for his resignation.
Newspapers have claimed he is now focused on “Operation Save Big Dog” – where other Downing Street officials will quit so Johnson doesn’t have to – and “Operation Red Meat” – where the Government will push forward proposals on contentious issues like the BBC Royalty to appease backbench Tories.
However, speaking to BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker on Monday, the Education Secretary denied such plans existed.
Walker asked, “Is what you’re telling us this morning part of ‘Operation save Big Dog’?”
Zahawi replied, “To be honest, I don’t recognize it at all.
“Government doesn’t work that way.”
Instead, he said it’s all part of the overall “Leveling Up” program.
Addressing the raft of proposals that were suddenly being promoted this weekend, including sending in the Royal Navy to deter refugees arriving on the English coast, Zahawi claimed: “This won’t happen overnight.
“You can’t just conjure up something like that on a weekend. All this work takes weeks and months.”
Walker pointed out, “It’s interesting that you totally deny that there is a ‘big dog rescue operation,’ and then you put us through the very things that appear to be on that list to try and fix the ‘big dog.’ dog’.”
“But Dan, they’re on the list because those are the government manifestos, those are the priorities.
“They are not on the list because we made up for them this weekend,” the minister insisted.
Backing the prime minister and his controversial apology in parliament last week, Zahawi explained that the Partygate scandal is difficult for him too.
The minister’s uncle died of Covid and they were unable to hold a proper funeral for him due to the lockdown rules in place at the time.
Still, Zahawi claimed the prime minister “absolutely” understood that all the anger and pain the public felt at the scandal was running high.
The minister was also keen to point out that Johnson has now pledged to return to Parliament when senior official Sue Gray reveals the results of her inquiry and to be scrutinized by MPs.
He went on to defend the Prime Minister’s claim that he “implicitly” believed it was a labor event and deflected Sky News’ Kay Burley’s call for Johnson to put himself forward for a vote of no confidence by claiming that he did is not the usual practice of PN.