David Cameron says Boris Johnson only backed Brexit to help his career as he launches furious attack on Leave 'liars'

Posted On: 
15th September 2019

Boris Johnson only backed Brexit to "help his political career", David Cameron has declared.

Boris Johnson and David Cameron in 2016.
Credit: 
PA

The former prime minister launched the scathing attack on Number 10's current occupant as he accused Leave campaigners of "lying" to the public in order to win the 2016 EU referendum. 

And he tore into his one-time political ally Michael Gove for becoming a "foam-flecked Faragist" during the campaign.

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The withering verdict on the pair is contained in Mr Cameron's memoirs, which are being serialised by The Sunday Times.

Mr Cameron quit as prime minister in 2016 in the immediate aftermath of Britain's vote to leave the EU, and has so far avoided publicly commenting on either of his successors' stints at Number 10.

But the former Tory leader claims Mr Johnson considered only "what was the best outcome for him" as he weighed up whether or not to back Brexit.

"Whichever senior Tory politician took the lead on the Brexit side — so loaded with images of patriotism, independence and romance — would become the darling of the party," he says of Mr Johnson.

"He didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile — Michael Gove in particular — to win that crown."

Mr Cameron meanwhile claims that Mr Johnson had been "certain the Brexit side would lose", with "little risk of breaking up the government he wanted to lead one day" - making his support for the Leave campaign a "risk-free bet on himself".

The ex-PM adds: "The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career."

GOVE: DISLOYAL

Mr Cameron also uses his book to tear into his "disloyal" former political ally Michael Gove, who he claims promised him he would make just "one speech" if he did decide to campaign for Brexit.

He accuses both Mr Gove and Mr Johnson of becoming "different people" during the campaign, and blasts them for making claims about imminent Turkish accession to the EU which he suggests were designed to stoke up anti-Muslim sentiment.

"We were no longer in the realms of stretching the truth, but ditching it altogether," he says of the claim. "Leave was lying.”

"I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Gove, the liberal-minded, carefully considered Conservative intellectual, had become a foam-flecked Faragist warning that the entire Turkish population was about to come to Britain," he says.

On why the campaign made the Turkish claim, Mr Cameron says: "The answer was that it was a Muslim country, which piqued fears about Islamism, mass migration and the transformation of communities. It was blatant. They might as well have said: 'If you want a Muslim for a neighbour, vote ‘remain’.”

Mr Cameron meanwhile says both men "behaved appallingly" ahead of the historic 2016 vote by "attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism".

Taking a swipe at Mr Gove for his later decision to torpedo Mr Johnson's 2016 Tory leadership campaign, the former PM adds: "As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty. Disloyalty to me — and, later, disloyalty to Boris."

REBEL CAMPAIGN VOW

The full-blooded attack on the leading Brexiteers comes as the Mail on Sunday reports that Mr Cameron has told friends he will campaign to support sacked Conservative rebels if the Tory party forces them to stand as independent MPs.

A string of Tory parliamentarians had the whip removed by Mr Johnson for backing legislation aimed at making it harder for the Prime Minister to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

A rebel source told the paper: "David reached out to lots of us and even said he would come and campaign if we stood as independents. He was very open about it on the phone."

But one Cabinet source questioned the former PM's decision to speak out.

"I don't understand why he has done it," they said. 

"He will always be hated by Remainers and, by apologising for Brexit, he will never get credit for having being the person who enabled it."