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Amber Rudd hits out at Boris Johnson’s ‘backseat driving’ over Brexit

The Foreign Secretary publicly declared he is “all behind Theresa May for a glorious Brexit”.

Boris Johnson has been accused of “backseat driving” by the Home Secretary over his 4,000-word Brexit blueprint that has been viewed as a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership.

Amber Rudd said she had been “too busy” dealing with the Parsons Green bomb attack to read the opus and criticised the Foreign Secretary for releasing the piece at the time of the blast.

The Prime Minister’s allies have said Mr Johnson will keep his job and suggested “people should calm down”.

Mrs Rudd, a Remain supporter, crossed swords with the Foreign Secretary during the EU referendum campaign, describing him as “not the man you want driving you home”.

“What I meant by that is I don’t want him managing the Brexit process,” she told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Mrs Rudd insisted the Prime Minister is “driving the car” and, when pressed on Mr Johnson’s actions, said: “You could call it backseat driving.”

The Home Secretary described her colleague as an “irrepressible enthusiast” on Brexit who brought “enthusiasm, energy, and sometimes entertainment” to the Cabinet.

Asked if she had read the article in The Daily Telegraph, she replied: “Unfortunately not. I had rather a lot to do on Friday. There was a bomb that nearly went off in Parsons Green.

“Yesterday I chaired Cobra, I went to see the police. No, I didn’t have time to read the piece.”

Mrs Rudd said Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson “has a point” when she criticised Mr Johnson for submitting the piece as London suffered another terror attack.

Asked if the intervention was helpful, she replied: “I think it is absolutely fine. I would expect nothing less from Boris.”

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd. (Victoria Jones/PA

The Home Secretary has been widely touted as a potential successor to Mrs May and she failed to rule out a bid for the top job.

Mrs Rudd insisted she was focused on “keeping people safe” when asked about her future ambitions.

“I haven’t got time for the rest of it,” she said.

Mr Johnson’s decision to release the article just six days before Mrs May is due to set out her plans for Brexit in a speech in Florence prompted claims in the Mail on Sunday that allies of the PM believe the move is “hostile” and “attention seeking”.

A senior minister who backed Remain told The Sunday Telegraph, meanwhile, Mr Johnson “needs to go and do something else” if he “can’t settle” into his role as foreign secretary, while a former minister said he was “sailing within an inch of being thrown out of the Government”.

Sir Craig Oliver, former director of communications at Downing Street for David Cameron, said even if the genuine intention was to support the Prime Minister, it was obvious it would be seen in Westminster as a “direct challenge”.

But as the furore raged, Mr Johnson insisted in a tweet he was “looking forward to PM’s Florence speech”. “All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit,” he added.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the Prime Minister’s failure to sack Mr Johnson showed she was “paralysed and impotent”.

Mrs May’s de facto deputy Damian Green said Mr Johnson would not be sacked over his intervention.

The First Secretary of State told Sunday With Paterson on Sky News: “No, he isn’t and the reason is, he, like the rest of the Cabinet, like the Prime Minister, is all about wanting to get the best deal for the British people.”

Mr Green suggested “people should calm down” after a “weekend of excitement” and said he did not think there was anything surprising in the article and insisted it did not contradict Mrs May’s last major speech on Brexit.

The Cabinet minister was quizzed on his own relationship with the PM by Sarah Smith during her presenting debut on BBC One’s Sunday Politics.

Asked if he viewed himself as “Theresa May’s Willie”, a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s remarks about her reliance on deputy Willie Whitelaw, he replied: “I was a huge admirer of Willie Whitelaw in my youth and absolutely I would be very content to have him as a role model.”

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