Chris Grayling squirms over Boris Johnson's EU-Hitler comparison
'Boris was making a historical analogy from a historian... He is a historian making a comment in his own words."
Cabinet minister Chris Grayling this morning failed seven times to back Brexit ally Boris Johnson’s recent controversial remarks comparing the European Union to Hitler.
As he was grilled on the Today programme, Grayling instead repeatedly claimed that Johnson was making a “historian’s comment”.
He also made an unconvincing attempt to play down the Conservative’s party’s intensifying row over Europe by twice referring to it as a “lively debate”.
Grayling’s awkward interview comes after former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine vented his fury ay Johnson on Tuesday, stating that the former London mayor may have ruined his chances of becoming prime minister by behaving “irresponsibly [and] recklessly” and making “preposterous, obscene political remarks” during the referendum campaign.
Lord Heseltine, a remain campaigner, was referring to Johnson’s comments at the weekend comparing the EU integration project to Hitler’s attempt to conquer Europe.
As he appeared on Radio 4's Today progamme on Wednesday morning, Grayling seven times refused to endorse his ally's comparison between the EU and Hitler. But he held back from explicitly condemning the incendiary comments.
First, he said: “Boris is a historian, he was making a historian’s comment. But the point… there is a clear plan in Brussels as part of the need to support the euro to move towards much greater political integration.”
Second, he asserted: “I think Boris has been somewhat misquoted. But the point that he was making was a very different one…”
Third, he insisted: “Boris was making a historian’s point, Boris is a historian. What I’m interested in is what the European Union itself is trying to do, which is move towards greater…”
Fourth, he attempted: “Well, was it right for a historian to make a historian’s comment? Boris is a…”
Fifth, he tried: “As I said, Boris Johnson was making a historian’s comment about history. What matters…”
Sixth, he went for: “Well, look what Boris was talking about was the reality that there is a drive towards greater political integration. Boris was making a historical analogy from a historian talking about a whole range of actions since the Roman Empire. He is a historian making a comment in his own words. My view is that we should be most concerned about integration in the European Union.”
When asked once more whether he was not as concerned as Tory grandee Lord Heseltine over Johnson's remarks, he replied: “I’m not going to get into the discussions between Michael and Boris."
He added: "What I’m talking about today is the Government’s agenda, while all this is happening, yes we are having a lively debate within the Conservative party.
“But we’re also getting on with governing the country, setting out an agenda to deliver a better security for our economy, better security for our nation and an agenda that is about driving life chances for people from deprived backgrounds. That’s what today is all about, yes we’re having a lively debate about Europe, but we’re also getting on with governing the country, that’s what people expect.
“I want the party to have a proper debate about Europe, I want us then, whatever the result, to carry on with the job of governing the country. Today is all about demonstrating that we’re actually doing that, that while we have a debate across our nation about Europe, we’re also getting on with delivering what we were elected on a year ago - a manifesto committed to improving life chances to those from deprived backgrounds.”