‘Don’t hold your breath!’ Nadhim Zahawi dodges Robert Peston’s Tory leadership quip

Nadhim Zahawi loses it at BBC host amidst constant interrupting

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Boris Johnson, 57, faces calls to resign after it was revealed the Prime Minister attended a ‘bring your own booze’ Downing Street party in May 2020. ITV’s Robert Peston, 61, put pressure on Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, 54, by asking the Brexit-backing MP for Stratford-upon-Avon whether he would enter the race to succeed Mr Johnson as Prime Minister and Tory Party leader.

During Peston’s interrogation of the ex-Vaccines Minister, the ITV’s political editor asked: “Most of your colleagues, whatever you say, do believe a leadership election is coming.

“Are you going to be a candidate?”

Mr Zahawi, who supported Mr Johnson’s bid to become Conservative leader in 2016 and did so again after Dominic Raab, 47, dropped out following the second ballot of the 2019 contest, replied by saying: “I don’t believe there is a leadership election.”

He then went on to set out ways in which he thought the Prime Minister had been a success.

Mr Zahawi explained: “When you look at what he did on vaccines and then, you know, brought me in to do the vaccine deployment, to then go on to purchase the therapeutics and antivirals, 5million of those coming in to save lives, to then make the call on Omicron pre-Christmas, those are the big calls.”

However, Mr Peston couldn’t resist making a quick quip at the Education Secretary at the end of their interview.

“Great to talk to you,” he said.

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“Maybe I’ll look forward to your leadership campaign.”

Mr Zahawi replied: “Don’t hold your breath!”

But other members of the Cabinet have also voiced their support for Mr Johnson.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, 41, came under fire for his defence of the Prime Minister.

Ex-England rugby player Brian Moore, 60, even said: “I’ll bet he’s planning for one job.”

Mr Johnson’s position as leader of the Tory Party and Prime Minister has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks.

Before Christmas, Mr Johnson suffered a staggering electoral setback with defeat in the Leave-voting seat of North Shropshire.

He also faced a challenge from backbench Tory MPs over bringing in ‘Plan B’ Covid measures.

After returning to the Commons after the festive break, Mr Johnson was forced to issue an apology after it was revealed he attended a party in the Downing Street garden back in May 2020.

He told the Commons: “I want to apologise.

“I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

“I know the anguish they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do things they love.

“I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

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“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility.”

Despite his apology, the Conservative Party has already taken a hit in the opinion polls.

Mr Johnson’s Tories find themselves 10-points behind Labour.

According to Britain Elects, the lead opened up by Sir Keir Starmer, 59, could ensure he commands a one-seat majority in the House of Commons.

Conservative politicians have also heaped pressure on the Prime Minister.

To face a leadership challenge, 54 MPs would need to hand in letters of no confidence to the chairman of the backbench Tory committee Sir Graham Brady, 54.

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