Claims that Boris Johnson missed a conference of Northern MPs for a trip to Ukraine for fear of a poor reception after partygate have been dismissed as ‘conspiratorial’.
The unexpected prime minister withdrawn from a conference of Northern Conservatives in Doncaster on Friday, just days before a crucial by-election in Wakefield which the Tories are widely expected to lose.
He has rather traveled to Kyiv meet the president of ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates said organizers of the inaugural Northern Research Group (NRG) conference were “mystified” by the no-show, but were told there was a “good reason” and that it was “significant enough”. .
However, that has not stopped speculation that Mr Johnson may have canceled in order to miss a tough race following the party scandal and a great revolt of its own deputies.
Mr Johnson’s allies have dismissed the allegations, with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace describing them as ‘conspiratorial’.
He said there was “a lot of rubbish gushing out” – adding that such visits had to be organized in “total secrecy” and that it was important for Mr Johnson show support for an ally at war.
“Portion Ukraine winning and trying to help at home are linked. Some of the inflation we see is coming from gas and food prices which are partly driven up by this conflict,” he tweeted.
“Incredible how an important trip can generate so many conspiracy theorists.”
Sky News understands a Tory MP present at the conference was furious the Prime Minister failed to turn up for the event, adding they were told Mr Johnson ‘was on the train to Doncaster’ on Friday morning.
“This is the first awareness test with his colleagues and he failed,” said the MP.
NRG leader Jake Berry said people were “disappointed” by Mr Johnson’s no-show.
He said the summit had underlined the importance of giving the region greater control so that it is not solely dependent on politicians in Whitehall.
He said unless northerners can see the benefits of leveling, the Tories will struggle in the next general election.
“I wouldn’t run away…”
“The Prime Minister’s move is Downing Street’s business,” Mr Berry told Channel 4 News.
“Obviously people were disappointed. We had over 30 colleagues here and 400 members.
“What we have put out here today are some hugely positive ideas from the North, for the North, designed to appeal to voters in Wakefield and the North of England.
“It’s about fueling this debate about how here in the North of England we can take back control of our destiny, not be dependent on a Prime Minister in Whitehall or Kyiv or wherever. it happens at some point to change our lives.
“Whoever the prime minister is, whatever the Conservative Party manifesto is, unless people feel good about what the Tories are doing in the North, it’s going to be a very tough election. I wouldn’t run away from that. .”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership who was also present at the NRG event, said Mr Johnson’s decision not to attend was a “missed opportunity”.
“Be brave, like Boris”
Downing Street said Mr Johnson had met President Zelenskyy in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine’s fight against Russia and to propose a major training program for Ukrainian forces “to support their heroic defence”.
The government said the programme, led by the UK, has the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days and will help new and existing Ukrainian soldiers.
The initiative will educate and train the Ukrainian armed forces using the proven expertise of the British military, enabling them to accelerate their deployment, rebuild their forces and intensify their resistance as they continue to defend the sovereignty of their nation against Russian invaders, Downing Street added.
Mr Johnson became the first leader of a G7 country to visit Kyiv when he visited for the first time in April.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said at the time: “We welcome Boris Johnson to Kyiv…Be brave, like Boris. Be brave, like Ukraine.”
The last trip came a day after French President Emmanuel Macrongermany Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian leader Mario Draghi met Mr. Zelenskyy then Ukraine is about to join the EU.
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