22 Feb 2016

Boris Johnson throws Tory MPs into panic

William Hague has often said that the Tory Party has two modes: complacency and panic. Many of the MPs I met this morning were definitely in the latter place.

“Cameron is toast,” one Remain-supporting Tory MP said. “He and the entire project is over. Continuity through George or whoever is over. The next leader will come before the end of the year and it’ll be someone in the next generation.” “Cameron won’t be here long now,” another loyalist said. “This is going to get extremely ugly now,” another Remain MP said.

Another Remain MP said: “We were called the careerists … the careerists are on the other side, double flip-flopping,” he alleged, to keep in with constituency associations.

One Leave MP said: “Cameron can’t go on even if he wins.”


Some took colourful exception to Boris Johnson invoking Churchill in his Telegraph article announcing his decision to back Leave. The more printable of those was: “He’s Churchill alright – Randolph!” That’s a reference to Winston Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a politician of much promise whose career crashed to earth early.

Boris Johnson briefly spoke to Channel 4 News as he rushed off to a ceremony appointing new QCs, including his wife, Marina Wheeler: Michael Gove as Justice Secretary was the man administering the honour. (He also made Ed Miliband’s wife Justine a QC in the same batch.) Asked why he thought so many people questioned his motives he said: “There will always be a lot of bickering and moaning.”

I understand that even when he left Boris Johnson’s house on Tuesday evening, Michael Gove told friends he wasn’t convinced that the Mayor of London had decided to back Leave. One man who might know the state of Boris Johnson’s mind is the Russian businessman, Evgeny Lebedev, who I hear was the fifth guest around the table that evening with the Goves and the Johnsons. Liz Hurley had been expected but didn’t end up there and missed out on a date with history.

Another Tory MP tells me his conversation with Boris Johnson on Saturday, made at the instigation of No. 10 who wanted Mr Johnson’s old friends to try to pull him back, left him thinking the die wasn’t completely cast. One Remain-supporting Tory MP said he’d heard of an earlier draft of Mr Johnson’s Telegraph article backing Leave and published today which makes a rather different argument. Though some with knowledge of Mr Johnson’s work habits might be surprised to think he’d troubled to write two drafts.

Quite how historic the Johnson/Gove intervention in this debate is will only become clear over time. One minister who is backing Remain believes it injects life into the coverage but doesn’t change the result. “It makes it more of a real debate but the fundamentals are the fundamentals.”

“Boris and Michael,” the minister says, “don’t buy the economic arguments (of the Outers), that we’d be freer to trade outside. They don’t buy the immigration arguments. They’ve been the two biggest voices against Theresa (May).” So they both, the minister says, end up focusing on “sovereignty, which literally means nothing to anybody”.

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8 reader comments

  1. Ken Hall says:

    “So they both, the minister says, end up focusing on ‚Äúsovereignty, which literally means nothing to anybody.”

    That statement sums up all that is seriously wrong with the careerist traitor political class in this country. Sovereignty certainly does NOT mean nothing. NOTHING is more important than our collective sovereignty.

    Thousands fought and died for OUR collective sovereignty over OUR elected parliament in two world wars. Thousands more were injured or traumatised by that essential principle of being empowered to vote out those who make bad laws. Millions of soldiers from around the world defended OUR sovereignty with bullets and bombs, so that we should not have to.

    The Suffragettes fought against sexist oppression to win the right to vote out those who make bad laws.

    It is our GOLDEN BIRTHRIGHT as a free people to hold that power OVER our elected Parliament. The EU holds unelected, uncountable power OVER the people. It is a vile reversal of power between the government and the governed. We cannot vote out the EU lawmakers in the EU commission, or the 3,500 secret working groups or the unelected, unqualified European Court of Justice in Luxembourg which makes and enforces EU law OVER all of us. They are profoundly anti-democratic and they abuse our sovereignty EVERY DAY!

    It is a profoundly offensive statement which exposes the roots of tyranny against the governed to suggest that “sovereignty literally means nothing”. It is a vile betrayal of all those millions of troops fought for in two world wars and all Brits who fought to extend the franchise to all adults in Britain.

    Every day I am profoundly grateful that I have not had to face a barrage of bullets to defend OUR sovereignty, but instead only have the very safe option of placing a cross on a ballot paper. This is much preferable to risking being laid to rest under a cross in a foreign field as our forefathers did.

    To honour and remember and thank the millions who fought for ALL of our collective sovereignty, against Fascism and for our right to determine our own future, I will vote Leave, because SOVEREIGNTY is profoundly and infinitely important.

    Vote Leave.

    1. John HLl says:

      I think you may be misunderstanding the point. I don’t think that the “sovereignty” in question refers to the domestic suffrage, or the ability of the electorate to recall politicians. Rather, it is the notion of national sovereignty – the legal authority held by an independent nation state. That is a more difficult and fluid idea, and one that has been debated at length by international lawyers. The extent to which membership of a multi-national union undermines the sovereignty of the individual states, is an important consideration. It is correct, however, in that context, to say that the definition of “sovereignty” is extremely difficult to agree on.

  2. Rob 1967 says:

    Don`t know if anyone saw Soubry and Farage on C4 news just now but it was probably more biased in favour of the EU than other programs that have been on. County was allowed to have her say uninterrupted but when Farage spoke, a man who spends a lot of his time in the EU parliament and will clearly know how it works, Soubry was determined to drown him out and towards the end she became almost hysterical the way she spoke. And where was the voice of impartiality? The interviewer let her get away with it and even said to Farage,`let her have her say.` And why are they like this? They can see both a defeat on the cards and Don`t want the ground to swell towards the out camp.

  3. David McAlpine Cunningham says:

    Dear Gary,

    I’m a lifelong admirer of Channel 4 News, but I’ve watched the reporting of Boris Johnson’s latest intervention in the Europe Referendum debate with mounting disbelief. I do realise that to London-centric journalists and political apparatchiks he bestrides the entire world like a mumbling, blonde, bicycle-clipped Colossus. But to those of us outside the south of England he means very, very little. Dare I say, we barely ever think of him. This is a UK-wide referendum. Don’t over-estimate his importance. His appeal is confined to a locality that wants out of Europe anyway. London and the Home Counties aren’t the whole world.

    Warmest regards,

    David McAlpine Cunningham

  4. More Silent Majority says:

    i’d rather have a party that allows it’s members to bicker, argue and have alternate opinions than one that goose-steps en-mass to the orders of a party run by one man and his little red book.

  5. Kate says:

    Gary, will the vapid bumblings of Boris Johnson really carry much weight outside perhaps London? One piece on him on Ch4 News last night showed that there are people outside the capital who don’t even know who he is! For them and people outside the metropolis,he is an irrelevance and why shouldn’t he be? We are to him.

  6. Andrew Dundas says:

    In referenda of this sort, we oughtn’t to exaggerate the value of either ‘fame’ or polling.

    Betting odds are much more reliable. Book makers give ‘stay’ 4/9 and ‘leave’ 21/10. Pretty close, with ‘stay’ an whole neck ahead.

    On the currency market, ‘fear’ is the stronger power. Consequently, investors are favouring the US Dollar well ahead of either our Pound or their Euro. Which tells us that they foresee difficulties for all european nations including us.

  7. Carter says:

    I think it is a crime that our universities turn out such a load of educated idiots, who are now in charge of running our country, and distroying it with there grubby politics.
    Also so out of tune with the average people, we are like pawns to them and we are dispensable, we mean nothing. I mean a pawn in a game of chess does have some use to a player, we are just expendable..
    Without being a racist, the imagration problem is just what they think of the English people who they suppose to represent. We have to many people in the country, which ls obvious to a simpleton. Also something will have to be done
    about the world population soon,
    Iti is always amazing to me that the news paper writers seem to know what is to be done, and are able to find out things, where the government don’t seem to have clue, or don’t wish to is more like it. They are career traitors to the country.
    And the queen is allowed to have an opinion I would think.
    But the government is playing chess and are loosening, and it will soon be checkmate to the people when we get rid of Cameron.
    But let’s get out of the EU,
    One more thing without being a racist, there is nothing good about a multiracial society.
    I rest my case.

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