Operation Stop Boris Even before MPs vote, Tories are plotting over new leadership
‘Too fraught with risk’
BORIS Johnson made a thinlydisguised pitch for the Tory leadership yesterday – as Remainers plotted to prevent him replacing Theresa May.
Mr Johnson launched another assault on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal in an interview with a website popular with Tory activists, whose votes would decide any leadership contest.
The former foreign secretary said Mrs May’s plan was full of ‘exquisite humiliations’ and suggested it was equivalent to the terms that might be imposed on a nation that had suffered a military defeat.
It came as Remainer Tories worked on a project to ‘ stop Boris’, amid reports up to 20 MPs could quit the party if Mrs May is ousted next week and replaced by Mr Johnson.
Former Attorney General dominic Grieve, former business minister Anna Soubry and backbench MPs Heidi Allan and Sarah Wollaston were among the names floated yesterday.
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Andrea Leadsom sparked speculation about a ‘joint ticket’ by inviting MPs to a Christmas drinks party hosted by them both. Observers suggested that the alliance would help Mr Javid – who backed Remain – win support among pro-Brexit Tories.
Aides insisted the only reason for the event is that the MPs have adjoining offices.
There were also claims leadership candidates were already offering Cabinet jobs in return for support. The BBC reported one senior Tory suggesting he had been offered a senior post by two different contenders.
There were also signs last night that Labour is seeking to join forces with rebel Tories and the dUP to force Mrs May’s resignation in a no-confidence vote if her Brexit plan is heavily defeated.
In an interview with the ConservativeHome website yesterday, Mr Johnson suggested Mrs May had ‘collaborated’ with the eU by agreeing to the customs backstop. ‘It’s unbelievable. It’s a kind of S&M approach to government. What perversion is it where you want to be locked up in chains,’ he declared.
It also emerged that Mr Johnson had compared his predicament over Brexit to that of Winston Churchill in the Second World War, saying the wartime prime minister gambled by confronting Adolf Hitler in the face of opposition from appeasers.
In comments which risked accusations he was comparing the eU to Nazi Germany, he told an audience of financial firms in Amsterdam on Tuesday the result was to ‘rescue this continent ... from a pretty odious tyranny.
‘So you can’t say he was wrong. In fact he was triumphantly right. A compulsive gambler was proved triumphantly right.
‘And I think the only lesson I draw from that is that sometimes you do need to do the difficult thing and you do need to take a position that everyone says is too fraught with risk.
‘And the lesson I draw from that is the UK today has every reason to be confident about our future and what we can achieve.’
Charm offensive: Mr Johnson