Published on 9 May 2016

David Cameron will have to form a coalition – with his own party

A Conservative former Cabinet minister told me: “It’s getting very abusive and personal.” He said that even if David Cameron won he would have to start “coalition talks with his own party.” “MPs backing Leave hate what he (the Prime Minister) is saying.”

I mentioned earlier how the Prime Minister took direct aim at Michael Gove describing his call for the downfall of the whole EU project supremely irresponsible and reckless.

For his part, Boris Johnson mocked the Prime Minister for suggesting Germany was about to march into France and he all but accused the Prime Minister of lying about his renegotiation deal. When he was asked what he thought of George Osborne’s words on “Peston on Sunday” that the party needed “sober, serious, principled” leadership, Boris Johnson responded by laughing and mocking the very idea: “I’m delighted to discover that the Chancellor is principled.”

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It was a curious performance by Boris Johnson with the now former Mayor of London trying to keep things serious but not being able to stick to the mood for that long. At one point he broke into the Ode to Joy in German to prove his love of European culture and take on the “cretinous” critics who accuse him of being a small-minded xenophobe.

He spoke of how the EU could not be like a country because it lacked a common sense of humour  and he said that the EU project was fatally flawed because there was “no trust and no shame” underpinning the enterprise.

He said conscientious types shouldn’t worry that it’s un-neighbourly to walk out of the union as the other 27 don’t listen to us much anyway. He didn’t repeat the Justice Secretary’s hope that the whole EU project collapses as we slam the door on the way out (particularly singled out for abuse by David Cameron) but he sounded like someone who agreed with that general thinking.

On the whole, some of the Leave team feel that Michael Gove is better at these sort of occasions, studio interviews likewise, and that Boris Johnson is better deployed touring the country giving barnstorming speeches low on specifics.

It’s not hard to imagine that Boris Johnson wouldn’t be entirely happy with that pigeon-holing and would’ve noted the very warm reception given by big Tory names to Michael Gove’s speech last month in the same building (likewise Michael Gove’s statement just after the renegotiation was completed). The former Mayor will hope that today reminded Leave Tories that he can construct an argument too and isn’t Michael Gove’s inferior in any regard.

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