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Major: Boris 'will not have loyalty of Tory MPs after divisive Brexit campaign'

Boris Johnson will not have the loyalty of Conservative MPs if he becomes party leader because he is leading a divisive Brexit campaign trumpeting "depressing and awful" arguments on immigration, Sir John Major has said.

The former prime minister described Mr Johnson - widely understood to have ambitions to lead the Tories - as a "court jester" and questioned his "late conversion" to backing Leave.

He warned the former London mayor that he will be treated like ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was a serial rebel over Europe during Sir John's premiership in the early 1990s.

Sir John said Mr Johnson had the power to stop "fundamentally dishonest" Leave campaign claims on the economy and "squalid" arguments on immigration.

He told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "He's a very engaging and charming court jester and a very engaging and charming public figure and he's very likeable and people like him.

"But I think I would offer him this piece of advice - if the Leave campaign led by Boris continue to divide the Conservative Party as they are doing at the present time, and if Boris has the laudable ambition, for it is a laudable ambition, to become prime minister, he will find if he achieves that that he will not have the loyalty of the party he divided.

"Iain Duncan Smith was serially disloyal in the 1990s, when he became leader he was surprised that no one was loyal to him and Boris should learn from that.

"I think Boris, all his instincts of the past have been of a one nation Tory, which is where I stand, he seems to have drifted away from that with the way in which they are approaching immigration and some of the other things.

"I'd like to see him get back, because if he gets back he is an important, engaging Conservative figure."

Sir John said he was angry at the way the Leave campaign was being conducted and suggested Mr Johnson should stop putting out "a whole galaxy of inaccurate and frankly untrue information" which he knows to be false.

On the "deceit" of the Leave campaign, he said: " I think it goes much wider than simply the leader.

"But of course as the leader, Boris is in a position to stop it.

"But I felt that for several reasons.

"Firstly on the economy and what would happen if we actually left, the Leave campaign have said absolutely nothing to the British people and what they have said about leaving is fundamentally dishonest and it's dishonest about the cost of Europe.

"And on the subject that they have veered towards, having lost the economic argument, of immigration, I think their campaign is verging on the squalid."

He also questioned Mr Johnson's sincerity in backing Brexit.

"I must say in Boris's case it was a rather late conversion," he said.

"I don't know whether he had a day trip to Damascus and came back but until the very last moment everyone thought he was in favour of staying.

"But he's made up his mind and I respect that, but I think what they have done now they have begun the campaign is to feed out to the British people a whole galaxy of inaccurate and frankly untrue information."

Sir John attacked Leave's " depressing and awful" arguments on immigration, which are misleading people to an "extraordinary extent", and described Mr Johnson's claims that 300,000 jobs would be created if Britain left the EU as as "fatuous" and a "fantasy".

"I think throughout the whole of my political life people have regarded me as being guilty of understatement," he said.

"I am angry at the way the British people are being misled, this is much more important than a general election, this is going to affect people, their livelihoods, their future, for a very long time to come and if they are given honest straightforward facts and they decide to leave, then that is the decision the British people take.

"But if they decide to leave on the basis of inaccurate information, inaccurate information known to be inaccurate, then I regard that as deceitful."

The former prime minister said no one in the Leave campaign had his direct experience of the EU.

He said the European Commission, the unelected body which is a prime target for Brexiteers, is ultimately accountable to member states' leaders and so the claim that the EU is run by elites and bureaucrats does not stand up.

Sir John said: "Of all the participants, there is nobody on the Leave side of the campaign who has, as I have, sat at the top table in Europe for seven years.

"And I know from what I have seen inside the European Union that what they say about unelected elites is absolute hogwash."

He added: "The belief that an unelected elite is running wild is yet another piece of copper bottomed Leave nonsense."


From Belfast Telegraph