Prime minister also fails to guarantee April’s National Insurance rise will go ahead – amid Tory revolt
The prime minister ducked the question – as he also declined to answer further questions about the inquiry he has ordered into Nusrat Ghani’s bombshell allegation.
Asked about Mr Spencer’s future, Mr Johnson said only: “This is something I take personally extremely seriously….we must wait and see what the investigation produces.”
The prime minister also refused to guarantee April’s National Insurance rise will go ahead as planned – amid a Tory revolt – even as his spokesman insisted it would.
“What I’m telling people is, if you want to fund our fantastic NHS, we have to pay for it – and this government is determined to do so,” he said, without confirming that would still come from NI.
Mr Johnson, interviewed on a hospital visit, tried desperately to turn the conversation to plans to tackle the NHS patient backlog, rather than the twin scandals of Ms Ghani’s allegation and No 10 parties.
Earlier, he was forced to order a Cabinet Office inquiry into the former minister’s treatment – almost two years after telling her to pursue a formal complaint with the party instead.
Ms Ghani says she told the prime minister at the time that this was “very clearly not appropriate for something that happened on government business”.
Labour has attacked the Cabinet Office probe as inadequate – calling for an investigation into whether Mr Spencer breached the ministerial code – while the Liberal Democrats want him to be questioned personally.
No terms of reference have been set out, nor a timeline for how the investigation will be carried out and it is unclear whether the conclusions will be published.
Mr Johnson, speaking in Milton Keynes, insisted: “We take these allegations extremely seriously, I took them very seriously when they were raised with me 18 months ago.”
He said he was “very glad there’s an investigation taking place now,” but claimed: “I can’t say more, really, about it.”
Ms Ghani has alleged that, when she was sacked in 2020, Tory whips told her that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.
Mr Spencer has identified himself as the person accused of making the remarks, but said: “These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”
The prime minister is also facing a front-on challenge to the National Insurance rise – which he has argued is essential to rescuing the NHS and, in future, the social care crisis.
Mr Johnson was asked repeatedly, on Sky News, to say it would go ahead, but refused, saying only: “Listen to what I’m saying: We’ve got to put that money in. We’ve got to make that investment in our NHS.”