Norfolk MP Liz Truss defends Boris Johnson against string of criticisms

Liz Truss leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

Liz Truss leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire - Credit: PA

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss has said there are 'various different ways of counting the amount of money we send to the EU' while attempting to defend Boris Johnson against a string of criticisms.

Ms Truss appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sky News, Talk Radio and BBC Breakfast on Wednesday morning to bat for Mr Johnson, who she is backing to be the next Tory leader.

One of the allegations put to Ms Truss was that Mr Johnson had been dishonest during the EU referendum campaigning, by claiming that by leaving the EU the country would take back control of roughly £350m per week.

The claim was emblazoned on the side of a bus and became a key feature of the campaign which ultimately won.

But independent factchecking charity Full Fact has previously said this was incorrect, and that the figure was more like £250m. And the UK Statistics Authority criticised the sum as "a clear misuse of official statistics".

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But appearing on BBC Ms Truss said: "I don't agree with that summary, there are various different ways of counting the amount of money we send to the EU and since then Theresa May has committed that extra funding to the NHS.

"It's a politically motivated campaign against Boris Johnson, trying to overturn the result [of the referendum]."

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Ms Truss also jumped to Mr Johnson's defence against criticism he is refusing to speak to journalists during his leadership bid.

She said: "He has got nothing to hide... The important thing is he is talking to parliamentary colleagues."

But while Ms Truss did the media rounds, Mr Johnson was nowhere to be seen ahead of his leadership bid launch later in the day.

Appearing across from presenter John Humphrys Ms Truss also defended Mr Johnson when asked about when he was sacked for "lying in public" about an affair, saying: "I do not think the British public is interested in Boris' personal life."

She said: "I think Boris is a fantastic person who will make a great leader for our country, I think we need change, we need something new."

And she said she thought Mr Johnson, who she described as a "positive, optimistic person who can help raise our country's sights", would "take us over the line" with Brexit.

And Ms Truss also denied Mr Johnson was to blame for the continuing imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe because he had suggested she was training journalists.

She said: "I think this is a complete misplacement of blame.

"The people who are keeping Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in jail are the Iranians.

"This is an oppressive Iranian regime - I think it's apologists for that regime who are putting the blame on Boris Johnson...

"The fact is he did a brilliant job in my opinion as foreign secretary [...] and in the case that you've just mentioned, it's the Iranian regime who have held this innocent women in jail - let's put the blame where it is really deserved."

When the accusation that Mr Johnson was "the worst foreign secretary in living memory" was put to her, she said such attacks were due to his "huge public appeal".

She said: "I think it's a sign - that he is being attacked shows the huge public appeal he has, the huge power he has to communicate.

"His record is of being the most successful mayor of London we have had, of being an excellent foreign secretary who got countries around the world to take action against Russia by expelling their diplomats."

Sir Alan Duncan, Mr Johnson's number two at the Foreign Office, has told how being his "pooper scooper" was "a full-time activity", but Ms Truss claimed those were the comments of someone who does not "like Boris Johnson" and who does not want the Conservative Party to change.

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