Chancellor Philip Hammond has mocked prominent Tory Brexiteers for engaging in a “suicide pact” during failed bids to beat Theresa May to the Tory leadership, it has been reported.
Mr Hammond used a speech in the US on Friday to say Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had formed an “unintended suicide pact” in the 2016 leadership contest, the Daily Telegraph said.
The Chancellor said that Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom had effectively “knifed herself” during the race to become Prime Minister, according to the newspaper.
Mrs May is facing calls to quit and trigger a new leadership contest, with ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith saying she should stand down as early as next month.
Mr Johnson hit back at David Lammy after the Labour MP defended comparing some Tory Brexiteers to the Nazis.
Mr Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Mr Lammy’s comments were a “peculiar outburst” which has been brought on by “Brexichosis”.
The remarks came as Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s defacto deputy, said talks with Labour on trying to end the Brexit deadlock would continue over the Easter parliamentary recess.
However, the discussions were not expected to resume on Monday, according to Labour sources.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Hammond said in a speech at the British embassy in Washington DC the Tories have the “joy of a leadership contest ahead”.
Mr Gove and Mr Johnson became rivals during the 2016 leadership contest which saw the field narrow to Mrs May and Mrs Leadsom.
Mrs Leadsom then dropped out of the contest after controversy was sparked by remarks which appeared to suggest that being a mother put her in a better position to be leader.
Referring to the leadership battle, the newspaper reported Mr Hammond as saying: “If you remember last time this happened in 2016, Gove and Johnson knifed each other in an unintended suicide pact.
“Which left just Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.
“And then Andrea Leadsom knifed herself in a private suicide pact and Theresa May inherited the prime ministership without anybody casting a single vote.”
Digital Minister Margot James said she would not serve under Mr Johnson if he became Tory leader.
Asked if she would stay in the party if someone who supports a hard Brexit became leader, Ms James told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “Well, I think it would slightly depend who it was.”
Ms James added: “I have already said I wouldn’t serve under Boris Johnson.
“Not just because his Brexit views, but because of his performance as foreign secretary as well which I felt really let the country down.”