Boris Johnson’s Brexit ‘red lines’ undermine Theresa MayIntervention on eve of Tory conference scuppers premier’s plan to reassert controlRead nextLabour’s galvanising conference in Brighton4 HOURS AGOTheresa May with other EU heads of government at a summit in Tallinn on Friday © EPAShare on Twitter (opens new window)Share on Facebook (opens new window)Share on LinkedIn (opens new window)Email162 Save to myFT8 HOURS AGO by Robert Wright and George ParkerBoris Johnson issued a direct challenge to Theresa May over her Brexit strategy last night, undermining the prime minister as she tries to reassert her authority at the Conservative conference that starts on Sunday.The foreign secretary used an interview to stake out his four “red lines” for Brexit, which go beyond the carefully agreed cabinet position set out by Mrs May in her speech in Florence last week.
The Tory leadership campaign is likely to be long and bitter. Europe has always had the potential to tear the party apart and the process of getting rid of Mrs May may be the catalyst which is why she remains Prime Minister.
Telling the truth in politics has never been a moral commitment. Rather a practical imperative not to be found to lie has tempered political rhetoric. That seems now to have gone. Boris lied in the Brexit campaign and he is lying again. It will be interesting to see if this carries any weight with MP’s and party members when a leadership challenge is mounted.
One thing which might undermine his campaign is his open disloyalty to the leader. Many Conservatives think it is a sin to undermine the leader publicly whatever you might do privately. Given that lying, and being found out is not necessarily a disbar from the role of leader it may be possible for an unplaced runner to come in late. Someone like Grant Shapps for instance. He certainly has the brass neck for the job.
On the other hand, time is the friend of the wounded. The longer Mrs May is in power the longer politics has the opportunity to throw up something that might help her. A week is a long time… but months and years is even longer. Mrs May is in power because the party fears the alternative. The longer they fear this the more difficult it will be to replace her. Given the poisonous challenge of Europe is quite possible they will fear it though to 2022.
Mrs May’s strength may be holding the ring on this potentially fatal issue. The next week is strewn with banana skins but if she gets through it it will be an important milestone in her Premiership. She may well see this government though, however whether it lasts to 2022 is a whole different issue.