- Philip Hammond joins growing list of Conservative MPs and ministers in attacking the frontrunner to replace Theresa May.
- The Chancellor openly mocks Johnson in multiple interviews.
- The comments mark an explosive start to the Conservatives’ annual conference in Birmingham.
- One Tory MP tells Business Insider that division caused by Johnson is “doing untold damage to the party.”
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – The Chancellor Philip Hammond has launched an all out attack on Boris Johnson, suggesting the former foreign secretary will never become prime minister and openly mocking him in multiple interviews.
“I don’t expect it to happen,” said the chancellor when asked about Boris Johnson’s leadership prospects by the Daily Mail.
He went on to perform an impression of Johnson. “Boris sits there and at the end of it, he says ‘yeah but, er, there must be a way, I mean, if you just, if you, erm, come on, we can do it Phil, we can do it. I know we can get there.’ ‘And that’s it!'”
He added: “You know? No rebuttal of the arguments.”
Hammond, who is preparing to address the Conservative conference in Birmingham today, went on to suggest that the former London mayor’s greatest achievement had been to introduce “Boris bikes” in the capital but suggested Johnson lacked the grasp of detail necessary to make an effective prime minister.
“I’m afraid when you are negotiating with the EU, you have to look at the facts and details,” Hammond said.
Hammond’s attack on Johnson came at the end of the first day of the Conservative party conference, with divisions on Brexit among senior MPs stretching close to breaking point.
In comments that further fuelled speculation about Johnson seeking the prime minister’s job, he had described her Brexit plans as “deranged” and “preposterous.” Theresa May insisted she was acting in “the national interest” and subsequently stood to applaud a speech from former CBI director-general Digby Jones who described Johnson as an “irrelevance.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called for “a period of silence” from Johnson, pointing out that he had endorsed the Brexit policies he was now opposing while serving as a minister. Meanwhile David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, dismissed Johnson’s proposal to build a bridge to Ireland.
“I think one of the blights of British politics is politicians having fantastic ideas that cost a fortune and don’t do much good,” Davis told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday. “Boris is a great mate of mine, we have a very knockabout friendship, but quite a lot of his ideas, I think, are good headlines but not necessarily good policies.”
One moderate Conservative MP told Business Insider that Johnson’s chances of becoming Conservative leader were now: “incredibly low. Less than 5%”
“I think Boris’s popularity is descending very quickly. I think his behaviour, his comments, his language, his utter disloyalty, is going down really, really badly with the parliamentary party,” they said.
“I’ve got a lot of local members in my association who were real Boris fans and staunch Brexiteers, big supporters of Boris and now they’re like ‘can you just shut this guy up. He is doing untold damage to the party.'”
They added: “I don’t think Boris will do it in the end because he will realise he doesn’t have the support and it will be embarrassing what poor support he has.”
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