Theresa May pitches herself as Mrs Sensible: I’m not a showy politician...
The home secretary made a bid to appeal to both Remainers and Leavers.
Theresa May today took aim at Boris Johnson as she set out her stall as the unity candidate to become the next leader of the Conservative party.
Appealing to both sides of the Brexit debate, the home secretary pledged to create a new Brexit department responsible for negotiating for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The 59-year-old said she would not hold an election before 2020, nor trigger the legal process for leaving the EU before the close of the year. She showed little enthusiasm for a second EU referendum, stating: "Brexit means Brexit".
But May's key message was that the country needs “strong, proven leadership” at a time of great uncertainty.
In comments that will be seen as a swipe at Boris Johnson, she argued now was not the time for “showy gimmicks and so forth”.
May sought to present a tone of continuity and calm, arguing there should be "no coronation brought about by backroom deals".
She added: “I’m not a showy politician, I don’t tour the TV studios, I don’t gossip over lunch, I don’t drink in parliament’s bars, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, I just get on with the job in front of me."
Her most lacerating attack on Johnson came during the Q&A session after her campaign launch.
Explaining why she is capable of leading Britain’s negotiations with the EU, she said: “I would simply say this, I have done this, I have sat round the table, I know what it’s like in those European meetings. I’ve not just done it, I’ve delivered on negotiations.
"Now of course, I know other people who have also negotiated in Europe, I think Boris has negotiated in Europe, I seem to remember the last time he did a deal with the Germans he came back with three nearly-new water cannon.”
Her comment was greeted with raucous laughter from Tory MPs in the audience, who recalled May’s decision not to authorise water cannon in England last year - much to the annoyance of Johnson.
In a clear bid to woo Leave supporters, May has enlisted Commons leader and arch-Brexiteer Chris Graying will chair her leadership campaign.