Boris Johnson makes public show of support for Prime Minister
The Foreign Secretary used his keynote speech at the Tory party conference to praise Mrs May’s “steadfastness” over Brexit.
Boris Johnson has given a public show of support for Theresa May after the Prime Minister faced pressure to sack him for disloyalty over Brexit.
The Foreign Secretary used his keynote speech at the Tory party conference to praise Mrs May’s “steadfastness” over the process of leaving the European Union.
The Prime Minister said she does not want a Cabinet of “yes men” but insisted she is “in charge” of the Brexit process after Mr Johnson used a newspaper article to set out his personal red lines for the talks.
But in his speech in Manchester, Mr Johnson insisted that the entire Cabinet was united behind the approach Mrs May had set out in her speech in Florence.
Mrs May’s grip on the Tory leadership has been weakened after her gamble of a snap general election backfired, costing the Tories their Commons majority.
Mr Johnson sought to accentuate the positives of the performance in June, telling activists: “You won – we won. Theresa May won.
“She won more votes than any party leader and took this party to its highest share of the vote in any election in the last 25 years and the whole country owes her a debt for her steadfastness in taking Britain forward as she will to a great Brexit deal, based on that Florence speech on whose every syllable, I can tell you the whole Cabinet is united.”
The Foreign Secretary was given a warm reception by a packed conference hall.
But speakers who preceded Mr Johnson on the conference stage gave indications of unrest around the Cabinet table.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon peppered his speech with jibes about Mr Johnson, including highlighting military values of “discipline and loyalty – from which we can all learn”.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel was given a rapturous reception in the hall with a speech which strayed well beyond her departmental brief, sparking speculation about her own leadership ambitions.
The Prime Minister was not present for Mr Johnson’s speech, but used a series of broadcast interviews to insist she was a strong leader.
When it was put to her on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the Foreign Secretary appeared to be “unsackable”, Mrs May said: “No, of course a prime minister makes decisions about who is in their Cabinet.”
She added: “Weak leadership is having a Cabinet of yes men, weak leadership is having a team of people who only agree with you.
“Actually, strong leadership is about having a diverse range of voices around the Cabinet table, who then come together, who discuss the issues and then come up with the answer.”
Voters wanted ministers “to focus not on our own jobs, but on their jobs and their futures”, she said.
An ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel called for Mr Johnson to be sacked, as the European parliament voted by an overwhelming majority against allowing Brexit talks to proceed to their second phase.
Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right EPP grouping of MEPs, said: “Please sack Johnson because we need a clear answer, who is responsible for the British position.”
MEPs backed a motion declaring that Brexit negotiations had not made sufficient progress to begin trade talks by 557 votes to 92.