Murdoch executives ‘told Sunak not to resign after partygate fine’

Rishi Sunak was persuaded not to quit as chancellor over his fine for breaking lockdown laws following an intervention by executives working for media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it has been claimed.

The claim is detailed in a new book by the Telegraph’s political editor and published by the newspaper on Friday.

It is the latest report to suggest that Mr Sunak was on the verge of resigning after both he and Boris Johnson were fined for attending the then-prime minister’s birthday celebration in Downing Street in June 2020.

Boris Johnson visit to Kent
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were both fined (Gareth Fuller/PA)

According to the paper, Mr Sunak shared a draft resignation statement with allies, including some who worked for Mr Murdoch such as former Tory leader and Times columnist Lord Hague.

It also reported that Mr Sunak’s potential resignation was discussed with Mas Siddiqui, an old friend and director at Mr Murdoch’s News Corp.

But the paper said that it is unknown whether a message was passed directly to Mr Sunak from Mr Murdoch.

Mr Johnson has since told people that Mr Murdoch intervened to persuade Mr Sunak not to quit, it was also claimed.

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

A Number 10 source said that Mr Sunak did not speak to Mr Murdoch at any time about resigning.

Mr Sunak did come under pressure over whether he would resigning after the fixed-penalty notice was issued in April 2022.

He reportedly spent hours agonising over whether to resign, but ultimately decided to stay in Downing Street along with Mr Johnson.

Mr Sunak would quit as chancellor only months later, with his resignation helping to spark a mass ministerial walkout that eventually forced Mr Johnson from Downing Street.