Boris Johnson has appeared to call on Conservative MPs to “get behind” Theresa May, amid claims he is in a “permanent leadership campaign”. A WhatsApp message sent by the Foreign Secretary to Commons colleagues also suggested they “calm down” following the General Election, ITV News reported.
Mr Johnson’s eight-point message added Tory MPs must “stop the narrative” that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “somehow won this thing”, noting he “barely did better” than Gordon Brown in 2010. The timing of the message, and the subsequent public release of it, will do little to quash speculation Mr Johnson is setting the scene for a potential leadership bid.
Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, now London Evening Standard editor, mocked Mr Johnson as he discussed the Sunday newspaper headlines on the Andrew Marr Show. He told the BBC programme: “I’ve been reading stories about Boris Johnson running a leadership campaign for years. He’s in a permanent leadership campaign so I’m not sure it qualifies as news.”
Sources close to the Foreign Secretary had earlier dismissed reports he was plotting a leadership bid as “complete bollocks” and suggested “someone is trying to make mischief”. In the messages obtained by ITV, Mr Johnson is said to have written: “Folks we need to calm down and get behind the Prime Minister.
“She won more votes than anyone since Margaret Thatcher. I can’t remember us having anything like 43% of the vote.” He also said the public “do not want another election” and labelled Mrs May a “woman of extraordinary qualities”.