Tory leadership coup: Ruth Davidson directs thinly veiled hostility at Boris Johnson after 'unfortunate shenanigans'

Scottish Tory leader says Theresa May must hold Foreign Secretary to his promises of loyalty - and says it is 'not about private ambition'

Tom Peck
Sunday 08 October 2017 10:36 BST
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Ruth Davidson stands up for Theresa May in BBC interview

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Louise Thomas

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Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said she will hold Boris Johnson to his claim to be fully behind Theresa May and her plan for Brexit, as she poured further scorn on the “very unfortunate shenanigans” that have followed the Prime Minister’s disastrous conference speech.

Ms Davidson said ”the pushback has been pretty strong” against those trying to force a leadership contest. She criticised “tittle-tattle” by colleagues, adding that being a politician is “about delivering for the country, it’s not and should never be about private ambition”.

On Friday, Tory backbencher Grant Shapps toured the TV studios claiming to have a list of 30 MPs names who were willing to trigger a leadership challenge, significantly short of the 48 required.

A message sent by Boris Johnson to fellow Conservative MPs has since been leaked, in which he told MPs to “circle the wagons and turn fire on Jeremy Corbyn”. But it has been Mr Johnson, more than anyone else in government, who has caused instability in the Tory ranks, via a lengthy article in The Daily Telegraph and an interview with The Sun, in which he set out his own, personal “red lines” on Brexit, which were distinct from the Government’s.

Amid talk of Mr Johnson being demoted in a reshuffle, and asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr if he was the best choice as Foreign Secretary, Ms Davidson did little to mask her disdain. “He is a big intellect, a big figure in the party and if the Prime Minister believes he is the right person to be Foreign Secretary then she has my full support,” she said.

On the subject of the attempted coup against Ms May, Ms Davidson later told ITV’s Robert Peston: “It’s done now. The Prime Minister will walk back in to the Commons this week to give an update on Brexit. She will have the support of her parliamentary team behind her.

“If they don’t get behind her they will see what’s lying in wait, and that is a neo-Marxist government led by Jeremy Corbyn.”

Asked about her own personal ambition, Ms Davidson said: “I’ve got a job at the moment. I am not looking past 2021. I am trying to build a party that was third and in many places fourth when I became leader, and build it up to be a credible government in Scotland. I’ve come a long way in that. I am looking to 2021 and I am not looking past that.”

Asked if Mrs May would lead the Tory party into the next general election, she said: “Well she’d have my support if she did, because I supported her in the leadership, I support her now and I’ll support her in the future.”

She added: “I think she’s the best prime minister that we’ve got and she has my full support. I’m actually getting a bit narked and I’m sure there’s quite a lot of women out there that are getting a bit narked at how many male commentators are talking about male cabinet ministers deciding what she should or shouldn’t do as if she has no agency in this herself.

“Goddammit she’s the prime minister of a G7 country, she didn’t get there by luck or by default. She has got grit, determination, dignity, she believes in service and diligence and she absolutely has my support.”

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