Theresa May last night declared war on Boris Johnson after allies said they had rumbled a plot by her Election guru to install the former Foreign Secretary as the next Prime Minister.
Senior figures at Tory HQ claim that Sir Lynton Crosby is behind plans to mount a nationwide campaign against Mrs May’s Chequers agreement on Brexit as the precursor to a Boris leadership challenge.
Australian-born Sir Lynton, who masterminded Mr Johnson’s London mayoral victory in 2008 and who remains a close friend, is said to be motivated by ‘revenge’ after No 10 blamed the strategist for last year’s botched General Election.
Mr Johnson denies plotting with Sir Lynton to derail Mrs May’s Brexit negotiations and seize Downing Street. But in a sharply worded shot across his bows last night, a senior Tory source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Boris hasn’t thought this through. His plan could result in us delaying leaving the EU, or even not leaving at all. If that happens, the party membership would never forgive him.’
Allies of Theresa May said they had rumbled a plot by her election guru to install former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (pictured with Lynton Crosby) as the next Prime Minister
The row comes as the Prime Minister last night vowed not to make any compromises to the Chequers deal, nor to ‘give in’ to demands for a second referendum – branding it a ‘gross betrayal’ of voters’ trust.
She said of the millions who voted in the original referendum: ‘They trusted that their vote would count; that after years of feeling ignored by politics, their voices would be heard. To ask the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy – and a betrayal of that trust.’
Mr Johnson’s popularity among Tory Party members has soared since he resigned as Foreign Secretary in July in protest at Mrs May’s Chequers plan, which would see the UK agreeing to follow EU regulations on trade, the environment and social affairs. He said it left the country at risk of ‘economic vassalage’ and accused Mrs May of ‘dithering’ over the UK’s strategy.
Meanwhile, Mrs May’s allies say that executives working for Sir Lynton’s powerful campaign company, CTF Partners, have been in discussions to ‘put rocket boosters’ under Change Britain, a group set up to argue for a hard Brexit, and turn it into a guerilla campaign against the Chequers deal.
They fear that the group will mount rallies around the country headed by Mr Johnson and other high-profile Brexiteers. Change Britain has strong links with the influential European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer Tory MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Mrs May’s allies believe that Sir Lynton’s outfit has been targeting Eurosceptic Tory donors to fund the campaign.
They are also suspicious that Mr Jonson seems to have been ‘singing from the Lynton hymn sheet’ since his resignation – and point to the furore over Mr Johnson’s inflammatory claim that burkas make women look like ‘bank robbers’ or ‘letterboxes’. Sir Lynton, 62, is an exponent of so-called ‘dog-whistle politics’, in which controversial messages, couched in relatively inoffensive language, are targeted at the Hard-Right.
The Prime Minister (pictured in Cape Town) last night vowed not to make any compromises to the Chequers deal, nor to ‘give in’ to demands for a second referendum
Sir Lynton, dubbed the ‘Wizard of Oz’ for his previous successes, lost some of his lustre after playing a key role in the disastrous