Boris Johnson has rejected calling a snap election after fuelling speculation he could go to the country early.
The prime minister ruled out a fresh poll in an interview recorded before the government became embroiled in fresh controversy when Tory MP Chris Pincher quit as deputy chief whip, a role in which he was responsible for party discipline, on Thursday over accusations he drunkenly groped two men on a night out.
That day Mr Johnson had repeatedly failed to dismiss the prospect of an election before the next scheduled date in 2024.
It followed reports that staff at Conservative Party headquarters had war-gamed the idea of calling a snap ballot if Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is forced to resign as a result of an investigation by Durham Police into alleged breaches of coronavirus rules.
However, asked in a recorded interview with LBC radio, broadcast on Friday, whether the idea of an early election is ridiculous, Mr Johnson replied: “Totally, totally.”
Refusing to be drawn further, he said: “What my job is, is to talk about the government’s agenda, to talk about policy, to talk about the UK, to talk about how we’re fixing the cost-of-living problems, the cost-of-living crisis, talk about everything we’re doing to strengthen the UK economy, our plan for a stronger economy, which is what I believe in.
“Talk about levelling up, the agenda for taking this country forward. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m actually meant to talk about.”
‘Cast iron, solid guarantee’
Pressed over whether he had two years or two months left as prime minister, he said: “I’m going to deliver on our programme.”
Speaking to Sky News earlier, Wales Secretary Simon Hart strongly denied there had been any talk of a snap poll.
He said: “I give you a cast iron, solid guarantee that I have had not had a single conversation with a colleague, whether it’s in the party or the Government, about an early election.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, standing in at prime minister’s questions opposite Dominic Raab while Mr Johnson attended a Nato summit in Madrid, challenged the Tories to call an election.
Referring to the recent by-election maulings suffered by the Conservatives, she said the voters of Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton had held their “own vote of no confidence” and called for the rest of the country to be given the opportunity to express their view.