PM's spokesman watches his words when asked about Michael Fallon

Written by David Singleton on 31 October 2017 in Diary

Questions about the defence secretary dominated the Number 10 lobbying briefing.

With some Tories fearing that the Westminster sexual harassment scandal could yet bring down the government, these are testing times for Downing Street spin doctors.

At this morning’s highly-charged lobbying briefing, the prime minister’s official spokesperson kicked off by updating journalists on this morning’s cabinet discussions about Brexit.

But it was only a matter of time before questions about the defence secretary came in thick and fast.

Asked what Theresa May thought about the behaviour of Michael Fallon, who has admitted he had to apologise to a journalist for putting his hand on her knee during a dinner, the spokesperson told hacks what they already knew:

"The defence secretary has apologised for an incident that took place some time ago."

And the prime minister’s response?

“It is right that he apologised in relation to that incident.”

Asked if May had full confidence in her defence secretary, the spokesman employed a classic spin doctors' cliché as he notably declined to give the prime minister’s backing:

“I'm not providing a running commentary.”

And asked the same question again, the spokesman again declined to say yes. He instead chose his wording particularly carefully:

“In general, the prime minister has confidence in her government and in her ministers getting on with their jobs.”

In total, the spokesman repeated his refusal to offer a “running commentary” nine times. Which could be a record.


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