Boris Johnson: Snap election claims are a 'scare tactic' to force Tory MPs to back Theresa May's Brexit deal
Downing Street is deliberately talking up the prospect of a snap election to "scare" MPs into voting for Theresa May's Brexit deal, Boris Johnson has suggested.
The former Foreign Secretary - who quit the Cabinet in protest at the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy - said it would be "lunacy" to take the country to the polls while the Conservatives remain split on Europe.
It was reported over the weekend that the Tories have already started booking printing houses for election materials and had dramatically upped their spending on digital advertising in preparation for a 6 June snap vote.
But, in his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said he would like to meet any Conservative advisers arguing for a fresh election and "shake them warmly by the throat".
"On the most important issue facing the country, Tory MPs would not have a clue what to say, and the Government’s position would fall apart," he said.
"Perhaps there is no plan for an election; perhaps it is just a scare tactic designed to get MPs to vote for the PM’s appalling deal.
"But if someone in Tory HQ genuinely thinks it would be a good idea, they should be despatched on secondment to Venezuela or Zimbabwe or somewhere they can do less damage."
Reports that Mrs May could call an election were also shot down by a top Cabinet minister on Sunday, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid telling the BBC: "The last thing this country needs is a general election."
He added: "The people will never forgive us for it."
But the renewed focus on a vote came as the Conservatives snatched a seven-point poll lead over Labour - the party's biggest opening since the disastrous 2017 vote that cost Mrs May her Commons majority.
The latest Opinium study for The Observer showed that Labour's support has slumped by six points from 40% to 34% in the past fortnight, while backing for the Conservatives was up from 37% to 41%.
But Labour MP David Lammy predicted: "There will be no election on the 6th June.
"After her 2017 performance the Tories wouldn’t let May take the risk.
"This story is designed to scare the shit out of MP colleagues in Leave seats in the hope they will vote for Mays deal. Let’s hope they can see through it."