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By Bishop of Leeds
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Minister Insists Boris Johnson Still Has Loyalty Of Cabinet After Party Chair Resignation

3 min read

Environment secretary George Eustice has said that Boris Johnson still has the support of his Cabinet after party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned in the wake of last week's double by-election defeats.

The Conservatives lost two seats in by-elections last week, with the Lib Dems overturning a majority of more than 24,000 in Tiverton and Honiton, while Labour was able to regain Wakefield, which had turned Tory for the first time in over 80 years in 2019. 

While many had viewed the by-elections as a referendum on Boris Johnson's leadership after a torrid six months of scandal in Downing Street, the double-defeat coupled with Dowden's resignation failed to trigger any new attempts by Conservatives to oust the Prime Minister. 

On Monday, Eustice insisted that Johnson does still have the support of his most senior ministers. 

"We have the support of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has our support," he told Sky News' Kay Burley. 

While Eustice admitted that last week's election results had been "disappointing", he believed that it was important that the Cabinet rally behind Johnson and "work as a team". 

"We have got an important agenda that we're working on – and that's what we're all focussed on," he added. 

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Eustice reiterated that last week's results had been "incredibly disappointing" and demonstrated how much work the party needed to do to turn things around ahead of the next general election. 

"We've got two years to get things back on track and that's what we're going to focus on doing," he said. "If we can do that, in a year, 18 months' time, things could look and feel very different."

On Sunday, an undeterred Johnson indicated that he intended to aim for a third term in office, which Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis described as "a good thing"

"I think Boris Johnson is the right person to take us into the next general election. I think he will do that successfully," he told Trevor Phillips on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme. 

"He's proven that time and again, where people have written him off, both before London elections and before in the 2019 election, and then we've been able to come back and win, and win successfully. And I think he's got the ability to do that," Lewis added. 

But there the threat of unrest in the Conservative party remains. According to the Mirror around half a dozen Tory MPs are considering defecting to the Labour party. Earlier this year, former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford crossed the floor of the Commons to join Labour in protest over the partygate scandal. 

Eustice was cautiously dismissive of the idea, which he suggested could simply be "tittle-tattle" driven by Johnson's detractors. 

"It's often the case with defections that you don't really know about it until it happens," he told LBC. 

"It could just be a bit of tittle tattle coming from somebody on the Labour benches, but it could be more real."

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