- Boris Johnson rules out challenging May before Brexit.
- Foreign Secretary stumbles during interviews on the Queen’s Speech.
- May’s allies insist she is “getting on with the job”.
LONDON — Boris Johnson has ruled out attempting to replace Theresa May as Conservative leader until after Brexit negotiations end in 2019.
The foreign secretary told Channel 4 News on Wednesday night that he would not challenge the prime minister for leadership for at least two years, saying “we have to get on and deliver on the priorities of the people.”
Johnson had previously been tipped as one of the leaders in the race to succeed May, but when asked whether he would not run for leader until 2019 he said “certainly, I do.”
The former mayor of London’s withdrawal appears to put Brexit secretary David Davis in pole position to become the next Tory leader, possibly as an interim candidate if the prime minister resigns suddenly during negotiations.
This is despite reports from allies close to Johnson telling the Daily Telegraph that Davis was too old to be leader, and that people have “short-term memories,” forgetting Davis’ failure to become leader in 2005.
The foreign secretary was also involved in a car-crash interview on Wednesday afternoon, where he struggled to remember and explain key parts of the Queen’s speech, which happened earlier that day.
When challenged by Eddie Mair on BBC Radio 4’s PM, Johnson was heard to sigh “hang on a second” before searching through papers for an answer.
Listen to excerpts from Boris’s Eddie Mair interview
Mair had asked what the government was going to do to tackle inequality in the criminal justice system against the BME community, something that May herself highlighted when becoming prime minister.
Johnson gave the roundabout answer “I think one thing in particular that we are looking at is measures to … hang on a second … there are all sorts of measures that we want to take to ensure that we do not discriminate against everybody.”
Mair asked a question about white working class boys attending university followed by a question about mental health care, but the foreign secretary attempted to give another answer to the first question.
The presenter told Johnson “well, why don’t we do the questions in the order I’m asking them. It’s not a Two Ronnies sketch. You can’t answer the question before last.”
When asked about the slimmed down Queen’s speech, Johnson said “I’m not going to hide it from you that the election did not turn out exactly as we would have hoped. It’s our job to form a government if we possibly can and to get on with what I think is a very progressive Queen’s speech.”
In recent days ministers have rallied to support May’s ailing premiership, with chancellor Philip Hammond telling the BBC on Thursday morning that he believed she would still be in her position at the end of the year.
“Asked if he believed May would remain PM in 2018 Hammond replied: “Yes I do.”
“I would remind you that when we formed the coalition (with the Liberal Democrats) in 2010 people… were saying then ‘Oh it won’t last till Christmas’. But it proved extraordinarily resilient,” Hammond added.
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