Rishi Sunak says Boris Johnson 'hasn't returned his calls' as he battles to take over Downing Street

Rishi Sunak has said that Boris Johnson has not returned his calls. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson's former right-hand man and Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the prime minister has not returned his phone calls since he resigned from government.

Mr Sunak was speaking at the Telegraph’s hustings for Tory members in Cheltenham on Thursday, in which he went head-to-head with fellow leadership contender Liz Truss, also hoping for the top job.

When asked if he had spoken to Mr Johnson since he resigned from his Cabinet, the ex-chancellor said: "I haven't, I've messaged and called but, unsurprisingly, he hasn't returned my calls."

Mr Sunak resigned from the government in July, within minutes of former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, with both senior ministers citing standards and integrity as their reasoning.

The resignations occurred amid the biggest leadership crisis of Mr Johnson's premiership, and were handed in just a month after he scraped through a no confidence vote.

They followed months of controversy as Number 10 fought to extinguish the flames of repeated scandals, such as Partygate and the Chris Pincher revelations.

Two days later, Mr Johnson announced he would step down as prime minister, after failing to convince his Cabinet he should stay.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know... 

In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Mr Sunak wrote: "The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously, adding that "our approaches are fundamentally too different."

"I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning," he added.

At the hustings on Thursday, Mr Sunak was asked if he thought Mr Johnson should be recused of the Privileges Committee investigation into whether he willingly and knowingly misled Parliament when he told MPs there were no illegal parties in No. 10 and no Covid rules were broken.

"I personally believe very strongly in high standards. One of the things I would do almost immediately as prime minister is reinstate an independent adviser for ministerial interests because everyone needs to know that trust, integrity and decency belong at the heart of politics and I will lead from the front," Mr Sunak replied.

Mr Sunak said earlier at the hustings that people “always” ask him about his relationship with the prime minister when he is out campaigning.

He added one woman had suggested he was “very different” from Mr Johnson, because “he looks like he’s lost his hairbrush, but you look like your mum’s brushed your hair."