BORIS Johnson has insisted voters want to hear less about the “things I stuffed up” as he defended his leadership after suffering a double by-election defeat.

Speaking to Sky News at the high commissioner’s residence in Kigali, Rwanda, the Prime Minister said: “For a long time people were hearing not enough about the things that really matter to them.”

He seemed to acknowledge there was criticism of him, saying “that’s right”.

But he added: “People were absolutely fed up hearing about things I stuffed up, this endless churn of stuff, when they wanted to hear what is this guy doing.”

Politics is about allowing people the “safety valve” of letting off at governments, Johnson has said.

The National:

Asked about his comments on Friday that he expects voters to beat him up, he added: “Well, I was speaking metaphorically and what I mean is that when you’re the leader of a country, in good times and in bad, you have to think about the criticisms that you get.

“And you have to recognise that inevitably when you’re the head of a government that’s taking the country through a big inflationary price caused by the increasing cost of energy, people are frustrated. People are filling up their cars, and cursing as they do so.

READ MORE: The question of an independent Scotland's currency answered in 40 seconds

“I understand that, we have to help them – and I understand people’s frustration.

“So what I’m saying is politics is about allowing people to have the democratic safety valve of letting off at governments, such as in by-elections. But then the job of a leader is to say, well, what is the criticism that really matters here?

“And I think back to what I was saying, I think it’s, for a long time people were hearing not enough about the things that really matter.”

Johnson insisted he is not going to undergo any “psychological transformation” as pressure piles on his leadership.

He said he must “humbly and sincerely” accept any criticism he receives in his job, but argued every Government gets “buffeted” by bad by-election results mid-term.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson plotted £150,000 treehouse for his son at Chequers

Put to him that Oliver Dowden had resigned as Conservative chair saying business could not continue as usual, Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that is not going to happen.

“What you can do, and what the Government should do, and what I want to do, is to get on with changing and reforming and improving our systems and our economy.”

The National:

Johnson suggested he would stand down as Prime Minister if it was put to him he had to “abandon the Ukrainian cause”.

Asked over which matters of principle he might resign, he said: “Well, for instance, I think that if our Government decided, if it was put to me that we had to abandon the Ukrainian cause because it was simply getting too difficult, and that the cost of supporting that people in their heroic fight for freedom was too great in terms of inflation, in terms of economic damage, yeah, I think I would accept that I’d lost a very important argument and I would go, but I don’t see that.”

But he later denied saying this was the only principle that would trigger such a move.

“I didn’t say that – you asked me for an example of a matter of principle, I came up with one,” he said.

READ MORE: Here's how to get a FREE 30-day premium plus subscription to The National

He used the radio interview to reiterate his claim that voters are tired of hearing about what “I’m alleged to have done wrong”.

On what lessons he will take from the by-election results, he said: “I draw the conclusion the voters are heartily sick of hearing about me and the things I’m alleged to have done wrong.

“What they want to hear is what we’re doing for them. And what I’m setting out for you, or trying to set out, is the ambitions we have [for] the country.”

Johnson also said the only argument of “substance” for a change of direction he has heard from his critics is for the UK to return to the EU single market.

Put to him that his critics are trying to get on to the 1922 Committee, which could trigger a change in rules sparking a fresh confidence vote in his leadership, the Prime Minister said: “I would say to them, you know, with great respect – and I love all these people – but don’t forget that the only actual argument that I’ve heard some of my critics make of substance about the change of direction they’d like to see is for us to go back into the EU single market.

“That’s literally the only manifesto point that I’ve seen.”

On the suggestion that criticism from people he has worked with, including his former ethics chief Lord Geidt, has been personal, Johnson said: “I understand what you’re saying… but I have to, as a leader, you have to try to distinguish between the criticism that really matters and the criticism that doesn’t.”