Sunak ‘persuaded not to quit by Murdoch executives after lockdown fine’

Politics

Rishi Sunak was persuaded not to quit as chancellor over his COVID lockdown fine after discussions with executives working for media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it has been claimed.

Mr Sunak is reported to have shared a draft resignation statement with allies after both he and Boris Johnson were fined for attending the then-prime minister’s birthday celebration in Downing Street in June 2020.

Among those he reportedly spoke to were former Conservative leader and Times columnist Lord William Hague, and Lord Daniel Finkelstein, a former executive editor and current columnist at the newspaper – owned by Mr Murdoch’s News Corp.

Mr Sunak also had a conversation about his potential resignation with Mas Siddiqui – an old friend, former Goldman Sachs colleague and News Corp director – according to The Daily Telegraph.

Allies of Mr Johnson have since told people that Mr Murdoch intervened to persuade Mr Sunak not to quit, according to the paper, reporting on claims made in a new book by its political editor Ben Riley-Smith.

However, a Number 10 source said Mr Sunak did not speak directly to Mr Murdoch at any time about his potential resignation.

It is unknown whether a message was passed directly from Mr Murdoch to Mr Sunak.

It’s the latest report to suggest that Mr Sunak was on the verge of resigning after he was fined by police for breaching COVID lockdown rules.

Rupert Murdoch at a New York gala in October 2019 Pic: AP
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A Downing Street source said Mr Sunak did not speak directly to Mr Murdoch. Pic: AP

William Hague
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The PM reportedly spoke to Lord Hague as he considered his future

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Mr Sunak came under pressure to resign as chancellor after the fixed-penalty notice was issued in April 2022.

After spending hours reportedly agonising over the decision, he ultimately decided to stay in Downing Street along with Mr Johnson.

Asked who they want to replace Boris Johnson in the event he stands down, 33% of Tory members polled said Rishi Sunak
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Mr Sunak did later resign as chancellor, heaping pressure on Boris Johnson

However, he quit in July, shortly after the resignation of then health secretary, Sajid Javid.

His resignation helped spark a mass ministerial walkout, which eventually forced Mr Johnson to step down as prime minister.

A spokeswoman for News UK declined to comment, while a spokesman for Mr Johnson said that he does not recognise the account.

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