A Tory MP insisted he does not know whether the prime minister should resign if it turns out Boris Johnson misled the House.
In the difficult-to-watch interview, Huw Merriman said “it just depends what’s occurred”, before trying to apologise and arguing he was not deliberately avoiding a clear answer.
But Sky News presenter Kay Burley was having none of it.
“No, I’m sorry Mr Merriman, it doesn’t,” Burley said, adding: “All I’m asking you is, if it’s proven that he misled the House, should he resign?”
“I don’t actually know the answer to that in terms of what a prime minister actually does and I know you’re leading me down a path, and I’m not actually trying to deliberately avoid it, but you’re asking me to speculate on matters that I don’t know whether they occurred or not,” Merriman said.
Burley replied: “I’m not, no, no, I’m not, I’m not at all. I’m saying, if he misled the House, should he resign?”
In a third attempt to answer the question, Merriman went on a rant about how he first looks at what Johnson has done in the coronavirus pandemic, before claiming he is speaking about his boss “with independence” and praising his public speaking abilities.
He said: “Let me try to answer it again and around, in this particular way, if you don’t mind. I look at the things that the prime minister has done in terms of getting us through the pandemic, the Covid vaccination delivery and the booster campaign and holding the nerve on plan B.
“And then I judged the issues where perhaps is not as positive for me, and bear in mind, I wasn’t a supporter of him, at the time in fact I lost my job. Perhaps you will take it I am speaking sort of, with independence here.”
“I judge him very positively”
He added: “But actually I judge him very positively, I think he has an ability to reach out to the public that few politicians can and if he has to reach out to explain what’s occurred in a manner that’s negative, then that will be for him to have to do and it will be for the public to decide whether they are willing to go along with that, judging him in the round as I believe most people will do.
“So I can’t really say any more than that Kay, it’s really difficult for me, I’m not trying to avoid the answers, I never do, but equally you’re asking me to speculate on a whole series of charges that I don’t even know are going to be laid.”
Burley replied: “No I’m not, no I’m not, I’m not, I’m just asking you whether, if he misled the House, should he resign? And the answer, as you know, is yes. Because if you mislead the House, you are expected to step down, aren’t you?”