Philip Hammond opened his Autumn Statement in the Commons on Wednesday by making fun of Boris Johnson for failing to become leader of the Conservative Party.
The chancellor told MPs he wanted to pay tribute to his predecessor, George Osborne, who was fired from the government by Theresa May when she became prime minister. “My style” Hammond said. “Will of course, be different from his.”
“I suspect that I will prove no more adept at pulling rabbits from hats than my successor as foreign secretary has been at retrieving balls from the back of scrums,” Hammond said.
For years, Johnson tried to avoid questions about whether he wanted to become Tory leader by saying he would like it only “if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum”.
However when David Cameron resigned as leader, his leadership hopes were torpedoed when Michael Gove launched a surprise bid of his own.
Osborne also recently poked fun at Johnson when he was asked by the Financial Times if he still harboured leadership ambitions himself. The former chancellor said: If the ball came loose at the back of the scrum. I wouldn’t fumble it.”