Senior Tories Anna Soubry and Alan Duncan warn against Boris Johnson leadership 'stitch-up'
Two senior Conservatives have publicly rounded on Boris Johnson, as he faces a backlash in the aftermath of the EU referendum.
Business Minister Anna Soubry spoke of her “anger” at the former mayor of London, accusing him of confecting his support for Brexit, while Sir Alan Duncan warned against a “stitch-up” to make Mr Johnson the next Conservative leader.
Mr Johnson is the frontrunner to replace David Cameron as Conservative leader, after the Prime Minister announced he would quit by October.
Ms Soubry, a vocal advocate for a Remain vote, said Mr Johnson had made a calculation that backing Brexit would help him become Prime Minister.
She told Channel 4 News: “My anger with Boris is that I don’t honestly believe that he believed what he was saying to people because you look at all the newspaper columns he’s ever written, he’s never said ‘I’m for Out’, and he positively told people, people like Nicholas Soames [Conservative MP], ‘I’m no Outer’.
“And when I confronted Boris with all of this, all he will ever say to me is ‘it will be alright, it will all be alright’.
She added that her colleague had not expected the public to support a Leave vote.
“I think he didn’t think that they would win; that’s why it was all going to be alright. But for his own interests, wanting to be Prime Minister, he went for Leave because it would serve him in his leadership ambitions.
“And I am cross about that because this issue is bigger than any one person. It was about my children, our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future and now they are seeing the consequences – as we warned and as we said – come to reality.
“So I am less than impressed with Boris Johnson and I don’t think he’s done himself any credit and he’s certainly not done our country any favours at all.”
Sir Alan, meanwhile, told the BBC that Conservative MPs, who decide the two candidates from whom Tory members choose the next leaders, cannot be “fodder” to make Mr Johnson the next leader.
“We’ve got to pick someone based on competence because they’re going to go straight in to being leader of the party and Prime Minister,” the former minister said.
“So this means you can’t just say ‘oh, someone’s won a referendum so stick them in’. Members of Parliament must all play their part in this and they must not be treated as fodder by a stitch-up at the top just deciding who the next leader is going to be.”
Speaking to the Today programme, Sir Alan also questioned whether Tory activists would support Mr Johnson.
"A lot of them have loved the notoriety and the excitement.
"But actually, once you scratch the surface a little bit and ask the second question, a lot of them don't want a permanent ride on the big dipper."