Top Tory Nicky Morgan says she would refuse to serve under Boris Johnson

Posted On: 
10th September 2018

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan has said she would refuse to serve in a government led by Boris Johnson after he accused Theresa May of strapping the UK to a "suicide vest".

The ex-Cabinet minister lashed out at Mr Johnson after he likened Theresa May's Brexit plan to a 'suicide vest'
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Ms Morgan said the "wholly inappropriate" attack on the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy had been "completely appalling", and ruled out taking a job if Mr Johnson took over at Number 10.

Mr Johnson - who is rumoured to be sizing up a leadership challenge to Mrs May - prompted fresh Conservative splits at the weekend when he launched a renewed attack on the Prime Minister's Chequers Brexit plan.

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"We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution - and handed the detonator to [EU chief negotiator] Michel Barnier," the former foreign secretary wrote.

That prompted a storm of criticism from Tory backbenchers and Cabinet ministers, with Ms Morgan on Monday joining their ranks.

The ex-Cabinet minister told the Today programme that all politicians had "a duty to think very carefully about the language that we use", adding: "Boris has to make a decision... he's either a journalist or a politician."

Ms Morgan added: "He knew exactly what he was doing when he was using that language...

"This is the second time now he has chosen deliberately incendiary language which just masks the ability to debate the issues and reflects very badly.

"And then we all spend time sitting here giving interviews, talking about him rather than talking about the issues."

Asked whether she would serve in a government led by Mr Johnson, the former Cabinet minister said: "I think I'm very unlikely to be asked but the answer is no. I would not serve in a Boris Johnson cabinet."

However, Ms Morgan vowed to stay in the Tory party and "fight" if Mr Johnson seized the top job.

She insisted: "I've been in the Conservative party for the best part of 30 years. I'm not going anywhere... I believe that there is a role for a centre-right party in our political system. I'm a one nation Conservative and that's what I shall stay and I shall fight for."

GAUKE: NOT A BORIS SUPPORTER

The defiant statement from Ms Morgan came as justice secretary David Gauke said there was "no vacancy" for Mrs May's job, and insisted she was "the right person to deliver" Brexit.

Asked whether he would serve under Boris, Mr Gauke said: "I'm probably not a natural Boris supporter.. The point is we've got a prime minister who's got a credible plan.

"There isn't an alternative credible plan out there. And I think it's absolutely right that the cabinet and the parliamentary party backs the Prime Minister. In challenging circumstances she's the right person to deliver the right deal for this country."

Fellow Tory MP Tom Tugenhat, a former soldier who chairs Parliament's powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, meanwhile renewed his attack on Mr Johnson over his "suicide vest" jibe.

The Tory MP this weekend urged Mr Johnson to "grow up", and said: "A suicide bomber murdered many in the courtyard of my office in Helmand. The carnage was disgusting, limbs and flesh hanging from trees and bushes. Brave men who stopped him killing me and others died in horrific pain."

Mr Tugenhat told the Today programme that he had been "a great fan" of Mr Johnson's stint as mayor of London.

But he said the latest outburst had not been "particularly appropriate", and said the country needed "leadership and unity" as it grappled with Brexit.

Asked whether he backed Mr Johnson, the MP said: "I wouldn't be supporting him."

TAX CALL

The attacks on Mr Johnson came as the former foreign secretary - who is facing intense scrutiny of his private life following the announcement he is separating from his wife of 25 years - launched a fresh swipe at Theresa May.

The Tory heavyweight is demanding that the prime minister rule out any future tax hikes to fund his flagship Brexit campaign pledge to spend £350m a week on the NHS.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: "Instead of canvassing tax rises, we should say that tax henceforward will not go up. That's it. No new taxes and no increase in rates.

"We do need to spend more on the NHS. We must find the extra £20bn that the chancellor has rightly promised. We do need to step up our investments in the police and schools and other vital public services.

"But I am afraid I am not convinced that the answer is immediately to turn to the hard-pressed taxpayer, when Britain is now by no means a low-tax economy compared with several other jurisdictions in Europe."

Allies of the leading Brexiteer also rallied around him, with chief Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg saying Mr Johnson's latest controversial remarks had been "a characteristically colourful catchphrase".

He told the Independent: "I agree with the sentiment. The criticism of Boris’s wording merely serves to highlight his point. It means more people hear of Boris’s criticism of Chequers and many will agree with him."

Pro-Brexit MP Nadie Dorries meanwhile said those opposed to Mr Johnson were "terrified of his popular appeal".