LONDON — The row between Boris Johnson and Theresa May escalated further last night after the Foreign Secretary’s allies said that Downing Street was trying to undermine him because it feels “threatened” by him.
The feud erupted on Thursday after the Guardian published comments made by the gaffe-prone Johnson at a conference in Rome last week. He criticised Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen and accused the country, along with Iran, of “puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said that Johnson was not representing the government’s position, and insisted that he had merely been laying out his personal view.
The spokeswoman said that Downing Street had “full confidence” in Johnson, but said that Saudi Arabia was “a vital partner for the UK, particularly on counter-terrorism.”
She added that Johnson would toe the party line when he attends a conference in Saudi Arabia next week. “He will be in Saudi Arabia on Sunday and will have the opportunity to set out the way the UK sees its relationship with Saudi and the work we want to do with them and other partners to bring an end to the appalling conflict in Yemen,” she said.
Last night Johnson allies hit back. One unnamed MP told the Times: “Boris’s private remarks were a statement of the bleeding obvious. The vast majority of the population will agree with him. It is clear that whoever is trying to undermine [him] doesn’t like the fact that he’s still the country’s most popular politician.”
Another told the paper: “The fact is, people in Downing Street are threatened by Boris. That’s why they react like this.”
It is not the only time this week the government has been forced to distance itself from remarks made by Downing Street colleagues.
After David Davis appeared categorically to rule out any transitional Brexit deal for the London’s financial district, a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU — which Davis heads — said: “This account does not properly reflect government policy or [Mr Davis’s] view.”
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