Boris Johnson has the potential to be a “great prime minister”, former Trump aide Steve Bannon has said.
The US right-winger, who masterminded Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election bid and joined him briefly in the White House as a senior adviser, also praised English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson as a “force of nature”.
Mr Bannon has spoken of his plans for an EU-wide movement to rally populist and nationalist voters for the European Parliament elections in 2019, and said he would be spending 70% of his time in Europe following the US mid-term elections in November.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said that there was “obviously a need for a more populist party in the UK” and predicted that Ukip could revive as an electoral force thanks to grassroots Conservative anger at Theresa May’s Chequers plan for Brexit.
Mr Bannon is understood to have been in contact with Mr Johnson by text during a recent trip to the UK, when the US strategist sparked headlines by describing then-jailed Robinson as the “backbone” of Britain.
He insisted that the former foreign secretary had “nothing to apologise” for over his comments on the burka and should not “bow at the altar of political correctness” by doing so.
Noting that the notorious article in which he compared Muslim women in face veils to letter-boxes also made the case against a burka ban, Mr Bannon said that populist voters were able to “separate the signal from the noise” and understand Mr Johnson’s true message.
“I consider Boris Johnson someone who understands the physics in the ebb and flow of events. Those individuals are rare,” said Mr Bannon.
He brushed aside suggestions that Mr Johnson was taking cues from President Trump’s approach to politics.
“I’m not sure Boris is using the Trump playbook so much as giving the people what they want – authenticity,” said Mr Bannon.
“Boris just needs to be Boris – true to his nature and his calling – and I think he has potential to be a great prime minister, not a good one.”
Mr Bannon said that his team was in daily contact with Robinson, who was freed from a 13-month prison term after judges quashed a contempt finding earlier this month, but now faces a fresh hearing on the same case which could see him returned behind bars.
Comparing him to the US rapper Kayne West, who has spoken in support of Trump, Mr Bannon said: “Tommy is not just a guy but a movement in and of himself now.
“He represents the working class and channels a lot of the frustration of everyday, blue-collar Britons… He is a force of nature — like Kanye — not built to be managed.”