Hammond leads Tory attack on Boris Johnson, saying ‘I don’t expect him to be PM’

Chancellor Philip Hammond criticised the former foreign secretary (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Philip Hammond has launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson, saying he does not expect the former foreign secretary to become prime minister.

After a day in which Theresa May and senior Tories lined up to heap criticism on her most high-profile critic, the Chancellor launched his own attack on his former Cabinet colleague.

Asked by the Daily Mail whether Johnson could become prime minister, Hammond said “I don’t expect it to happen” and suggested Johnson could not do “grown-up politics”.

He went on to attack the flamboyant Brexiteer for having “no grasp of detail” on complex subjects like Brexit, suggesting his greatest achievement to date had been introducing the “Boris Bike” cycle scheme while London mayor.

Speaking to ITV News this morning the chancellor played down the war of words saying: "I don't want to get into personalities, I don't want to get into petty fights."

Former Brexit secretary David Davis jumped in to defend his friend and Brexit ally telling ITV News' political correspondent Libby Wiener "He's a character, for heaven's sake our politics needs characters."

"With the greatest respect to Philip Hammond, if you want to fill a hall, ask Boris Johnson, not Philip Hammond," he added.

Hammond's attack came at the end of the first day of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham in which its fault lines over Brexit, already exposed, started to crack open with just weeks to go to settle a withdrawal deal with Brussels.

Johnson had used a Sunday Times interview to describe May’s Brexit policy as “deranged” and “preposterous”.

In remarks that will fuel speculation about his leadership ambitions, the former foreign secretary suggested that he could negotiate Brexit better than May, saying: “Unlike the Prime Minister, I fought for this.”

Philip Hammond reiterated to ITV News on Monday morning the Chequers deal is the only one on the table.

Asked about his suggestion that her Chequers plan for the future relationship between the UK and the EU was “deranged”, Mrs May insisted she was acting in “the national interest”.

Mr Johnson's proposal that the UK abandon the commitment it made in December to have a "backstop" agreement for Northern Ireland in place before March 29 - when Britain is due to leave the EU - also came in for criticism.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV News that failing to fulfil the commitment would mean a no-deal scenario.

"The reality is if we just said we’re not going to follow through on our commitment in December to come up with an Irish backstop with the EU, we go straight to no deal," Mr Raab said.

"Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made clear in the worst case scenario I think we can weather the buffeting we’d get...but that is a formula for no deal and the Government’s top priority is to get a good deal."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called for “a period of silence” from Johnson, pointing out that he had given his endorsement when in Government to Brexit policies he was now criticising.

Sunday also saw Mr Johnson’s replacement as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, spark criticism from the Latvian ambassador to the UK after making a comparison between the EU and the former USSR.

Speaking from the main stage, he said: “The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving.

“The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out of it won’t diminish it will grow and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape.”

It prompted a rebuke from Baiba Braze, who said on Twitter: “Soviets killed, deported, exiled and imprisoned 100 thousands of Latvia’s inhabitants after the illegal occupation in 1940, and ruined lives of three generations, while the EU has brought prosperity, equality, growth, respect.”

Hunt later used a Telegraph interview to warn Brussels it would stir up a “Dunkirk Spirit” if it forced May into a bad deal.

He told the paper: “If President Macron thinks… we will come crawling back desperate to rejoin the club in a few years’ time… it is a profound misreading of our character.”