LONDON (REUTERS) - British Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Sunday (Feb 6) it was not at all inevitable that Mr Boris Johnson would have to stand down, as he gave the Prime Minister his backing over a row about his conduct.
Mr Johnson has been engulfed in a state of crisis for around three months, with an increasing number of lawmakers in his own party saying he should quit following lockdown parties held at his residence during the pandemic.
Mr Charles Walker, a previously loyal senior Conservative lawmaker, told The Observer newspaper that it was now "inevitable" that his party would remove Mr Johnson from office.
"I don't see what he's seeing," Mr Kwarteng told Sky News on Sunday.
Mr Johnson has been fighting to save his job for weeks, saying he will learn from recent mistakes and move on.
But on Monday, when he went to the House of Commons to apologise for lockdown parties that have angered the country, he also falsely accused the leader of the opposition of failing to prosecute a now dead child sex abuser.
That not only appalled members of his own party but it led to the resignation of one of his most senior aides, and has led to reports that it split his Cabinet of senior ministers, after Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said pointedly that he would not have made such a remark.
Mr Kwarteng, asked about the comment, said Mr Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, had apologised when he was director of public prosecutions for the organisation's failure to prosecute paedophile Jimmy Savile, a television celebrity.
Mr Starmer had not been involved in the decision however.
"The fact that he apologised suggests that he does, at some level, bear some responsibility," Mr Kwarteng said.
"I'm not saying that he had personal blame, he didn't, we were very clear about that.
"The Prime Minister clarified that position as well. But I think in the cut and thrust of debate, when people are talking about leadership and accountability, bringing up something that Sir Keir himself apologised for, seems reasonable."
Meanwhile, a former leader of the Conservative Party has told potential challengers to Mr Johnson to “temper” their ambition, saying the government needs to focus on supporting the country through a cost of living crisis.
Mr Iain Duncan Smith told BBC TV that he was not “particularly in favour of plunging us now into a mess of votes of confidence, followed by leadership elections".
He said that would be wrong “at a time when I think the British public has a right to (say) we elected you two years ago but we did not elect you to sit there whilst our incomes are not enough to pay for the cost of our living".