Rishi Sunak addresses controversial Ron DeSantis meetings

Rishi Sunak and Ron DeSantis

Downing Street has denied that Rishi Sunak is backing governor Ron DeSantis in his expected primary battle against Donald Trump.

The Florida governor visited the UK last week as part of a brief world tour widely seen as a bid to bolster his international standing ahead of an expected run for US president.

In London, Ron DeSantis met with women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and foreign secretary James Cleverly.

He praised Badenoch for “war on wokery” and she “complimented his work” in Florida, where he has overseen several anti-LGBTQ+ measures including the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.

Pundits interpreted the meetings as a tacit endorsement from Sunak’s government.

But on Wednesday (4 May), the prime minister’s spokesperson insisted that he is not supporting DeSantis’ presidential bid.

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“Governor DeSantis is governor of Florida, a substantial economy, one that does a large amount of trade with the UK,” they said, per the Evening Standard.

Notably, no government minister met with Donald Trump when he visited his golf resort, Trump International in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, this week.

The spokesperson was asked whether it could be said the government was taking sides in the expected Republican primary battle between Trump and DeSantis.

“I would disagree with that,” they said.

A photo shows Donald Trump wearing a navy suit, whit shirt and red tie speaking to an audience during a campaign speech.
Donald Trump. (Getty)

Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination is already underway. Ron DeSantis has yet to officially declare his candidacy, but he is widely expected to do so in the coming weeks.

Florida recently passed a bill to allow the governor to run for president without resigning his post.

DeSantis has been somewhat preoccupied in recent weeks as he wages war on Disney.

The governor has been attempting to strip Disney of the special tax district which encompasses its theme park, over Disney’s public opposition to his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.

Disney is suing and has called DeSantis’ behaviour “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business and patently unconstitutional”. 

It’s likely DeSantis will leverage this battle, and his ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, in his White House bid.

As the 2024 election draws nearer, experts predict there will be a sharp rise in hate crimes.