Boris strikes out suspiciously… and then gets slapped down
Ruth Davidson said the foreign secretary's timing could have been better.
Boris Johnson appears to have set out his stall for a future leadership bid based on him being the standard-bearer for a so-called clean Brexit.
After months of holding back on Brexit, Johnson shocked some colleagues by setting out his views in a 4,000-word article, in which he insisted that Britain will still claw back £350m a week after leaving the EU.
The fact the Johnson’s article is suspiciously speech-length suggests that it may have been planned for Tory conference – but then vetoed by Number 10.
Senior political journalists immediately interpreted Johnson’s intervention as the first stirrings of a leadership bid.
Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman tweeted: "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a leadership challenge..."
And The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn said: "Hard to read Boris today as anything other than cute positioning for a walk out/leadership challenge as standard bearer of clean Brexit."
Meanwhile some of Johnson’s colleagues expressed frustration at the timing of his intervention, shortly after the Parsons Green bomb attack. They included Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson who issued a thinly veiled swipe on social media.
Johnson’s article first appeared on the Daily Telegraph website where it was behind a paywall. But in a bid to achieve maximum publicity, the foreign secretary later got around the paywall by posting it on his Facebook page.
The intervention has similarities with David Miliband’s move in 2008 to set out how the Labour government could reassert its authority. Miliband’s Guardian article nine years ago was widely seen to be motivated by his ambition to replace Gordon Brown. The then foreign secretary spent the next few months denying that he wanted to overthrow Brown, but struggling to explain why there was not a single mention of the then prime minister in his article.
In his 4,000 word offering, Johnson avoids falling in to the same trap as Miliband by giving one mention to the prime minister.
He states dutifully: "Before the referendum we all agreed on what leaving the EU logically must entail: leaving the customs union and the single market, leaving the penumbra of the ECJ; taking back control of borders, cash, laws.
"That is the programme that Theresa May set out with such clarity in her speech on Jan 17 at Lancaster House, and that is what she and her government will deliver."
Picture by: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images.