Number 10 ditches the doublespeak to give Boris Johnson both barrels

Written by David Singleton on 3 September 2018 in Diary

Downing Street is said to have issued its 'firmest ever smackdown of Boris'. 

In Number 10 lobby briefings, the prime minister’s official spokesperson tends speak in code and to avoid personal attacks. Acts of political agression are generally left to special advisers and Tory HQ. Explicit slap-downs of senior Conservatives are largely unheard of.

Or at least, they used to be.

In his Telegraph column today, Boris Johnson appeared to be wrestling with yet another leadership pitch as he shredded Theresa May’s strategy for Brexit. In a passage that might not have resonated with anyone under 35, he wrote:

“The whole thing is about as pre-ordained as a bout between Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy; and in this case, I am afraid, the inevitable outcome is a victory for the EU, with the UK lying flat on the canvas with 12 stars circling symbolically over our semi-conscious head.”

Asked about Johnson’s Telegraph column in today’s lobby briefing, the PM’s spokesperson responded in an unusually sharp manner:  

"Look, Boris Johnson resigned over Chequers. There are no new ideas in this article to respond to. What we need at this time is serious leadership with a serious plan and that’s exactly what the country has with this prime minister and this Brexit plan."

The ferocity of the attack raised a few eyebrows among political hacks. Huff Post UK political editor Paul Waugh called it Number 10’s “firmest ever smackdown of Boris”.

He then reminisced: “I've not seen May slam Boris this brutally since she used to ridicule his watercannon plans.”

But the prime minister’s official spokesperson was not the only person in Westminster suggesting that the former foreign secretary is not the serious character the country needs right now. About half an hour earlier, Jeremy Corbyn also voiced his opinions about Johnson’s latest Brexit broadside.

“It sounds like Boris Johnson, having spent two years as foreign secretary, has achieved nothing and now says it’s all off,” he said.

“Well surely, it’s time for some serious people to take over the negotiations?”




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