‘You only have one chance to shoot the King, you can’t miss’: After claims Boris Johnson should make Jeremy Hunt Chancellor as a peace offering, GLEN OWEN examines the withering response from the Prime Minister’s allies
When the story landed at 9.30pm on Tuesday night, the reaction from Boris Johnson’s inner circle was incredulous – and blunt.
‘Total b******s!’ said one ally. ‘What’s going on?’ asked another. A third talked of ‘ludicrous fantasy politics’.
The article in question was a front page report in The Daily Telegraph, claiming that the Prime Minister’s allies were urging him to offer Jeremy Hunt the job of Chancellor as a ‘dream team’ to ‘heal rifts’ within the party following Mr Johnson’s narrow confidence vote win on Monday.
The suggested move was likened to Gordon Brown’s decision to bring the Blairite Lord Mandelson into his Cabinet to shore up his administration in 2008.
Given that Mr Hunt called this week for Mr Johnson to be deposed because ‘we are no longer trusted by the electorate…. we are set to lose the next general election’, it would have amounted to an astonishing volte face by the former health secretary, dubbed ‘Theresa May in Trousers without the charisma’ by the PM’s supporters.
When the story landed at 9.30pm on Tuesday night, the reaction from Boris Johnson’s inner circle was incredulous – and blunt
Inside Downing Street, the finger for the story is being pointed at Mr Hunt’s allies, who they accuse of trying to ‘brief themselves back inside the camp’.
Een bron het gesê: ‘Hunt went too soon on Monday, pitching for the job before it became available. There has been a lot of rowing back by them since then. I think his team are trying to use it to get him back in the Cabinet.
‘I can assure you that Jeremy Hunt is not about to become the Chancellor – or indeed anything’.
Mr Johnson’s win, deur 211 stemme aan 148, protects him against a further vote for a year – assuming the party’s 1922 Committee doesn’t change the rules to allow an earlier challenge.
A key member of the Johnson inner circle said yesterday that Mr Hunt – who as the Mail revealed on Monday has been plotting his path to No 10 for over a year by installing advisers and courting disaffected MPs – had ‘used up his one bullet’. The ally said: ‘You only have one chance to shoot the King. You can’t miss.
‘We had been preparing for this for months – it didn’t take a genius to work out that a challenge was going to come. They triggered it too soon – if they had waited until after the by-elections [in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton on June 23rd, which the party is on course to lose] they might have got across the line.’ The ally added: ‘We were also lucky that the contest kicked in on Monday morning, when our MPs were still scattered around the country in their constituencies. Our plan was to go quickly, before the rebels had the chance to properly mobilise.
The article in question was a front page report in The Daily Telegraph, claiming that the Prime Minister’s allies were urging him to offer Jeremy Hunt the job of Chancellor as a ‘dream team’ to ‘heal rifts’ within the party
‘We had very good intelligence about which way the MPs would be voting, so we worked on those we needed to. Now they have voted we have an even better idea – secret ballot notwithstanding.’
Allies of Mr Hunt, intussen, strenuously denied being behind the Telegraph story, eis: ‘Jeremy is not interested in that role.’ One said: ‘Jeremy didn’t want a contest this week. He didn’t put a letter in himself nor did he encourage anyone else to do so. .
‘He wanted this debate to take place in the autumn or even next summer. Maar, once the vote was happening, he felt he had to say what he honestly believes which is that, as things stand, the Tory party is heading for a catastrophic defeat.’
Despite the size of the rebellion against him, the PM’s team brush away comparisons with Mrs May’s fate. She was toppled seven months after winning a confidence vote with higher support from her MPs than Mr Johnson enjoyed.
Mr Johnson’s win, deur 211 stemme aan 148, protects him against a further vote for a year – assuming the party’s 1922 Committee doesn’t change the rules to allow an earlier challenge
Een bron het gesê: ‘Theresa said before the vote that she would not lead the party into another election, so she was a terminal case anyway. Boris intends to lead the party into the next election, which will concentrate minds.’
Mr Hunt came under heavy Tory fire after his ‘change or lose’ message, with the indefatigable Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries attacking his ‘duplicity right now in destabilising the party and country to serve your own personal ambition’.
Pro-Boris MPs have pledged to unite behind an ABH (Anyone But Hunt) candidate such as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi if Mr Hunt enters the race. They warn that the ‘One Nation wing of the party never produces a Prime Minister’.
'N Nee 10 source said last night: ‘There will not be an imminent reshuffle and when there is one it won’t involve Hunt. Rishi is doing a good job as Chancellor. If there are ministerial changes it will be because there is a cold-blooded need to help people with the cost of living or make them safer on their own streets, by putting in effective – and loyal – people. Not to square off opponents.’