Boris Johnson backed by potential challenger Liz Truss in fight to keep job

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the prime minister had her 100 per cent backing, despite party scandal

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, second from right, defends Boris Johnson after meeting her Australian counterparts. AP

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, a potential leadership challenger to embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has given him her “100 per cent” support and publicly backed him during a trip to Australia.

She told reporters there was no leadership election amid pressure on him to resign as prime minister and said she wanted him to continue as long as possible in his job.

Ms Truss is seen as one of the most likely runners for the top job if Mr Johnson quits as premier after intense pressure over his attendance at a “bring your own booze” staff party at Downing Street in breach of lockdown rules.

"The Prime Minister has my 100% support,” she told reporters. "I want the Prime Minister to continue as long as possible in his job. He is doing a fantastic job. There is no leadership election."

Her comments came amid more infighting within the Conservative Party as reports suggested rebel Tory MPs are considering publishing a secret recording and text messages linked to allegations of "blackmail" from the prime minister's supporters.

Mr Johnson insisted on Thursday he had "seen no evidence" to support the claim made by senior Conservative William Wragg that his critics were facing "intimidation" as part of an effort to prevent him being ousted from office.

But The Times reported that Tory MPs keen to see the back of Mr Johnson have secretly recorded a "heated" conversation with the chief whip, as well as text messages to support the accusations.

It comes as Sue Gray, the senior official leading an inquiry into claims of rule-busting gatherings, was said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown.

The email, sent by a senior official, told Mr Reynolds that the gathering "should be cancelled because it broke the rules", according to ITV News.

Mr Johnson admitted attending the gathering in question for 25 minutes on May 20, 2020, but insisted he believed it was a work event, and that he was not warned it would be against the rules.

The PM has been battling claims that Tory critics are facing "intimidation" that could amount to blackmail as part of an effort to keep him in his post.

Mr Wragg said on Thursday he had received reports of conduct including "members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, Government ministers and others encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister".

"The intimidation of a Member of Parliament is a serious matter. Reports of which I am aware would seem to constitute blackmail," the chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said.

"As such it would be my general advice to colleagues to report these matters to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police."

But Mr Johnson said: "I've seen no evidence, heard no evidence, to support any of those allegations."

He said he would "of course" look for evidence to support the claims, but No 10 suggested there were no plans to launch an investigation as demanded by Labour.

The Times reported that one Tory MP said they were told by a whip "you're done" when voting against the government last year.

The paper also claimed Tory rebels met on Thursday to discuss their next steps.

Mr Wragg is one of a handful of Tory backbenchers to have said publicly they have submitted a letter calling for a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson's leadership.

He said the conduct of the Government Whips' Office threatening to withdraw public funding from MPs' constituencies may have breached the ministerial code.

Christian Wakeford, the MP who defected from the Tories to Labour in protest at Mr Johnson's leadership and the row over Downing Street parties, said he was threatened about the loss of a school in his constituency if he did not toe the line.

The Metropolitan Police said they would consider any complaints made to officers.

"As with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered," a spokesman said.

On the reports Ms Gray had found an email warning Mr Reynolds against holding a Downing Street drinks party, No 10 said it would not comment on the process of the ongoing investigation.

Updated: January 22, 2022, 1:05 PM