Boris Johnson has called on Conservative MPs to “get behind” Theresa May as speculation grows that he could be planning to challenge her for the party
Boris Johnson has called on Conservative MPs to “get behind” Theresa May as speculation grows that he could be planning to challenge her for the party leadership.
Leaks screenshots of WhatsApp messages sent by the Foreign Secretary to a Tory MP groupchat show him telling the MPs to “calm down” following the general election result, ITV News reports.
The timing of the message, its media-friendly content, and its subsequent public release however led to speculation on social media that it was specifically written to be leaked.
This has done little to quash speculation Mr Johnson is setting the scene for a potential leadership bid.
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.
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.
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“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”.
Additional reporting by PA