Liz Truss says Boris Johnson is doing a ‘fantastic job’ but sidesteps leadership question

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AFP/Getty Images

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has backed Boris Johnson, saying he is doing “a fantastic job” as prime minister, that he has her “100% support”, and should remain in Number 10 “as long as possible”.

Truss, in Sydney for a series of ministerial talks with her Australian counterpart, was asked on Friday whether the prime minister’s leadership remained tenable, given the unfolding anger over a series of parties in Downing Street while the UK was under a strict Covid lockdown.

“The prime minister has my 100% support. He is doing an excellent job,” Truss said during a press conference in Sydney. “I want the prime minister to continue as long as possible in his job. He is doing a fantastic job.”

Related: Liz Truss: the ‘human hand grenade’ Tories have taken to their hearts

Truss, seen a potential leadership candidate should Johnson be forced out, did not answer a question about whether she would run for prime minister if a leadership ballot was held.

“There’s no leadership election,” she said.

Asked about the rising anger across Britain over No 10’s apparent consistent defiance of Covid lockdown laws, Truss said Johnson had acknowledged the error and that the British people were focused on the country’s economic recovery.

“The prime minister apologised and said mistakes were made. He is working to open up the economy and deliver for people across Britain and that is what is important … and that is what people are focused on.”

Truss was also asked about allegations of blackmail by Tory whips, accused of intimidating rebel backbench MPs who had spoken out against Johnson or defied the party line on votes. “I’ve already commented on the situation in the United Kingdom,” Truss said, “and I do not have any information about what is happening on the subject you raise.”

Related: Tory defector says whips told him to back PM or lose school funds

Truss was in Sydney, along with defence secretary Ben Wallace, for the annual “Aukmin” talks between with Australia’s defence and foreign ministers.

Truss said the UK and Australia, as historic allies, were “facing global challenges with multiple aggressors”.

“We are seeing increased economic coercion from China, we are seeing increased aggression from Russia, we are seeing Iran in danger of obtaining nuclear capability and we need to work with all of our friends and partners around the world, and Australia is an absolutely crucial ally and friend.”

Australia’s defence minister, Peter Dutton, said UK submarines will be making more trips to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. “We will see greater rotations, as we’ve already seen from the strike carrier group and from the nuclear sub visit out of the UK,” he said.

“We will see more, not just from the UK, but from the United States. We’re seeing greater interest, of course, from even the Germans and other European nations, more people that understand what is happening in terms of the coercion and bullying taking place within the Indo-Pacific.”

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