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Johnson urges Tory MPs to focus on 'chucking Chequers' rather than May

Category: Political News,Politics

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to focus on dismantling the Chequers deal rather than ousting Theresa May, days after Brexiteers met to plot her downfall.

Around 50 Tory MPs spent nearly an hour devising ways to replace Ms May on Tuesday evening amid anger over the Chequers plan for Brexit.

Asked if he had a message for them, Mr Johnson told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s not about the leadership. It’s about the policy.

“It’s not about changing prime minister. It’s about chucking Chequers.”

It comes as Lord Heseltine suggested the former foreign secretary will become the next prime minister.

The Tory grandee insisted the recent barrage of negative headlines about Mr Johnson and Brexit have not done him irreparable harm, should he choose to launch a leadership bid.

Lord Heseltine revealed he had “substantial” doubts about the controversial figure’s ability to unify the party – or the nation – but argued Mr Johnson was still extremely popular with party activists.

“My guess is that he will get the nomination,” said the former deputy prime minister.  

The former foreign secretary has faced a Tory backlash over his claim that Theresa May’s Brexit strategy had put the UK in a “suicide vest” and handed the detonator to Brussels.

Many of the Tory MPs who backed Remain are deeply hostile towards Mr Johnson over his support for a hard Brexit and association with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s right-wing European Research Group (ERG).

“Has he done himself any irreparable harm? Well I don’t think he has,” Lord Heseltine told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster.

“What you have to say to yourself is who the Tory party membership of the House of Commons is going to choose to send to the activists of the Conservative Party in any leadership campaign.

“Whilst there is strong opposition to Boris, I find it difficult to think of two names that they will send that don't include him.

“And, if he gets before the activists, my guess is that he will get the nomination.

“All that is one thing. But if you then ask a second question. Does that unify the party? Does that solve Brexit? Does it get Britain back into the centre ground?

“Those are the key questions about achieving power and my doubts and reservations are very substantial.”

Guto Harri, a key former adviser to Mr Johnson, told the BBC the MP for Uxbridge would be a “hugely divisive figure” if he did manage to win the top job.

Mr Harri, who was Mr Johnson’s communications director when he was Mayor of London, said his former boss was doing “enormous damage” to himself with his increasingly controversial use of language.

He said: “I fear that Boris is digging. Somebody needs to take the spade out of his hand or it looks to me like he’s digging his political grave.

“At the moment [his gift for language] is being deployed in a really destructive and self-destructive way that I think is doing enormous damage to him as well as to the country.

“People always said he shot from the hip and used language loosely or gaffed. It was always very calculated. It was just calculated in a very, very clever way in the past.”

Mr Harri said his former boss successfully widened his appeal during his stint as Mayor of London, winning approval from some Labour supporters as well as traditional Tory voters.

“Now he’s gone the other way. He’s become more tribal, and tribal within the tribe, so that he would now be – if he were to become leader – a hugely divisive figure,” said Mr Harri.

The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here

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