Rishi Sunak has repeatedly avoided condemning Jacob Rees-Mogg for claiming the government parties allegedly held during Covid restrictions are “disproportionate fluff” and “fundamentally trivial”.
Asked on Sunday if he agreed with the Brexit Opportunities minister about Partygate not being important, the chancellor told the BBC that he made his comments on that “clear in the past”.
But upon being pushed regarding the fact that he never addressed Rees-Mogg’s comments, Sunak added: “As I’ve said, I’ve made my points clear about Partygate, of course it damaged trust.
‘That responsibility has been taken’
“It was right that the prime minister took responsibility for that in the way that he did, he made repeated statements in Parliament from the dispatch box promising changes, those changes have already started to take impact and it’s right that they have.”
“So you disagree with Jacob Rees-Mogg and his comments, was he wrong to say ‘disproportionate fluff’ and ‘fundamentally trivial’?,” he was asked again.
He replied: “I think people were angry and had the right to be angry about what was happening and I think it damaged trust but it’s also right that that responsibility has been taken and steps have been taken to change things, that has already happened.”
It comes as Rees-Mogg told a Tory conference in Blackpool that the parties scandal had “shown up for the disproportionate fluff of politics that it was, rather than something of fundamental seriousness about the safety of the world and about the established global order”.
And Lord Cruddas, a major Tory donor, said the scandal had been “blown out of proportion quite frankly”.
He told LBC: ”I support Boris, I think he’s done a brilliant job. He delivered Brexit, he delivered the vaccine programme. I like to look on the positives and not on the negatives.
“I back Boris and guess what, I sent the party £250,000 six weeks ago right at the height of partygate to support the party and to support Boris.
“I think we should be grateful to Boris, the way he brought the vaccines into this country and the way he delivered Brexit, and I’m behind him all the way.”
Rees-Mogg criticised for Partygate comments
But many hit out at the prominent Tories excusing gatherings of officials for social purposes whilst the general public was unable to do the same under the government’s own law.
Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid said that it was a “total outrage” that the scandal could be dismissed so readily by government ministers.
Even Tory party co-chairman Oliver Dowden criticised Rees-Mogg’s comments.
“I’ve always felt that it’s incumbent on politicians who set the rules to abide by the rules and therefore I think any allegations that politicians have not done so should be taken seriously,” Dowden said.