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Tue, 14 July 2020

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EXCL Tory minister: I would find it 'difficult' to serve under PM Boris Johnson

EXCL Tory minister: I would find it 'difficult' to serve under PM Boris Johnson
3 min read

A Conservative minister has admitted he would find it "difficult" to serve under Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg if either of them ever became Prime Minister.

Rory Stewart took aim at the Eton-educated pair over their behaviour during and after the Brexit campaign.

Both of them were prominent Leave supporters during the referendum, and are now among the fiercest critics of the withdrawal agreement struck between Theresa May and the EU.

They have also been touted as potential successors for Mrs May should she be brought down by the ongoing Tory civil war.

In an interview with The House magazine, Mr Stewart, who backed Remain in the referendum but has been a staunch defender of the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, accused Mr Johnson and Mr Rees-Mogg of using a "beautiful classical education to whip up public sentiment".

Asked if he could serve in a government led by either men, Mr Stewart - who also went to Eton College - said: "I think I would find it difficult. I suppose if I’ve learned anything in eight years as a politician it is saying never is maybe too extreme, but I think at the moment I would find it difficult.

"I don’t like that kind of politics. I don’t like words like ‘vassalage’ and ‘colonial status’. I don’t like the use of beautiful classical education to whip up public sentiment - it’s not my style of politics."

The MP for Penrith and The Border added: "I think the last couple of weeks has made me feel more loyal to the Prime Minister than I ever have before and given me a sense of what an unbelievably tough job she has.

"It is grotesquely unfair to the Prime Minister that people who have no plan are attacking something that she and thousands of civil servants have just spent two-and-a-half years on. Who do people think they are? What is the basis for them thinking they can do better than this?"

In September, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said she would refuse to serve in a government led by Mr Johnson after he accused Theresa May of strapping the UK to a "suicide vest".

Elsewhere in his interview, Mr Stewart again urged Tory MPs to support the Prime Minister, who is facing almost-certain defeat when her deal comes before the House of Commons on 11 December.

He said: "It’s a much better deal than we’ve got at the moment because it acknowledges the result of the referendum. People have to take this on board - sticking with what we have at the moment is to deny the votes of 17.4 million people. That is politically unbelievably risky and dangerous.

"It is not a stable situation to try to hold a referendum, lose the referendum and try to stay in the European Union. This deal is much better than that because it delivers to Brexit voters control over immigration while, for Remainers, giving them certainty about being able to trade into Europe.

"From an economic point of view, the deal is relatively neutral and it’s all to play for. We’ll see over the medium-to-long term whether Britain can reorganise itself to take advantage of these opportunities or not. In the short-term it’s neutral economically because it’s retaining full market access on industrial goods. But politically it’s far better because it’s trying to heal a very divided and polarised country."

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