Philip Hammond says Boris Johnson is unlikely to ever be prime minister and has 'no grasp of detail'

Chancellor launches scathing attack on former cabinet colleague as infighting among senior Tories intensifies

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Monday 01 October 2018 10:11 BST
Conservative Party Conference: Five things to watch

Philip Hammond has launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson as public infighting among senior Tories intensified.

The chancellor predicted the former foreign secretary would never be prime minister, saying he said had “no grasp of detail”.

It comes after the first day of the Conservatives' annual conference in Birmingham was dominated by criticism of Mr Johnson, who is widely thought to be planning a bid to replace Theresa May.

Lord Digby, a former director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), called him “irrelevant and offensive”.

And in a clear attack on hardline Brexiteers, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, will today tell party members to dismiss the “ivory-towered schemes of the ideological puritan”.

No 10 will be desperate to ensure the rest of the conference is not overshadowed by the major internal row over the government's Brexit strategy.

Mr Hammond's attack came after Mr Johnson called Ms May's Chequers plan “deranged” and “preposterous”.

Asked about the comments during an interview with the Daily Mail, the Chancellor mocked his former Cabinet colleague.

Quizzed on whether he thought Mr Johnson could become prime minister, the chancellor replied: “I don't expect it to happen.”

He said: “Boris is a wonderful character, but he's never been a detail man. I've had many discussions with him on Brexit.

“Boris sits there and at the end of it he says 'yeah but, er, there must be a way, I mean, if you just, if you, erm, come on, we can do it Phil, we can do it. I know we can get there.' And that's it."

Continuing to impersonate Mr Johnson, who he said had “no grasp of detail”, the Chancellor added: “'We just have to want it a bit more, we just have to wish a bit harder, we just have to be a bit more bullish and it will all be fine.' But it won't all be fine because we are dealing with grown ups here and we have to deal with the real world situation we face.”

Mr Hammond also dismissed Mr Johnson's political record, including his time as Mayor of London.

He said: “Political experience is the triumph of will, of personality, that's his experience as London mayor. What were Boris' policies as mayor?

“You can think of one or two like Boris bikes. But I'm afraid when you are negotiating with the EU, you have to look at the facts and details.”

Mr Hammond doubled down on his attack on Monday morning, telling ITV's Good Morning Britain that Mr Johnson's calls for a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU meant he was living in a “fantasy world".

Boris Johnson refuses to rule out a Conservative leadership bid

On the second day of the Tory conference, Ruth Davidson will tell the party faithful they must “go back to our Conservative principles”.

She will say: “The principles of country, of duty, of practicality and of delivery. The belief that every prudent act is based on accommodation and accord. That the best is the enemy of the good if it stops us improving the outcomes for the country.

“The attitude that listens, eyebrows raised, to ivory-towered schemes of the ideological puritan and replies: 'Aye, right'."

She will add: “It’s this practical, pragmatic and utterly Conservative approach that will get us through. Because, when the future of our country is at stake, it is essential.

“Here’s the truth: We can agree a Brexit deal under the Conservatives, or we can risk handing the keys of Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn.”

It comes after Lord Digby received loud applause from party members when he criticised Mr Johnson from the conference podium over reports that the former foreign secretary had exclaimed “f*** business” at an event on Brexit earlier this year.

The peer said: “Business is so important that when I heard a former foreign secretary [say] f-business, it showed him up for the irrelevant and offensive person he really is and I take great exception to that.”

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