Damian Green aims jibes at fellow Tories during press gallery lunch
The first secretary of state had Heidi Allen, Jacob Rees Mogg, Lynton Crosby and George Osborne in his sights.
If the Conservative party is a happy and harmonious ship throughout, then Damian Green did a good job of hiding it when he sat down for lunch with lobby journalists in parliament’s Churchill Room.
The first secretary of state entertained the press gallery with a series of jokes – many of which had a fellow Tory as the punchline.
Without naming Nadine Dorries or Andrew Bridgen personally, the former journalist hit out at certain Conservative MPs for their media briefings.
"My official role as eminence grise of the government means that I am constitutionally barred from saying anything sensational on or off the record. Not that this distinction is observed any more, I discover in some cases. You know who you are."
He took a more direct swipe at independent-minded Tory MP Heidi Allen.
"Cross party friendships are much more common than social media would suggest. I’ve even seen evidence that Heidi Allen will collaborate with other Conservatives."
And there was an honourable mention for Jacob Rees Mogg.
"There is no doubt that we’re living and working in interesting political times. The political world is stalked by unlikely personalities who seem to come from alien worlds that political journalists have never had to enter before. Trump. Macron. Jacob…"
Green also joked about the fiery temperament of Lynton Crosby, the Tory general election campaign chief who many Mayites blame for the disastrous outcome of the contest.
"I’ve only just recovered from the election campaign…. I found that every time I did a TV or radio interview my phone afterwards would be full of the most explicit personal criticism, using violent and insulting language. But Lynton’s got over it now."
But perhaps his most damning criticism was reserved for George Osborne. Green – possibly aided by his special adviser, the former Sun PR man and leader writer Dylan Sharpe - suggested he was unimpressed with his former colleague’s approach to the new job and proposed a radical new strapline for his newspaper:
"So I know that Theresa May is to blame for Ben Stokes’ nightlife, hurricane Ophelia and the fact that week after week with her as Prime Minister in November the sun shines for a smaller time every day.
"The Evening Standard. Russia Today with less George Galloway."
A bit later, the first secretary of state was more on message when one journalist asked whether Theresa May was the right person to lead the Tories into the next election.
In a fresh blow to Grant Shapps, he simply said: "Yes."
Picture credit: Press Association.