Boris Johnson’s plunging popularity has been underscored after a Tory fundraising auction managed to attract just two bids for dinner with him.
The Conservative party’s annual summer ball saw the private meal with the Foreign Secretary raise £15,000 – while dinner with Theresa May attracted many bids and eventually went for a price of £160,000.
Johnson, once the star attraction at such events, was this week eclipsed in the Tory leadership stakes by David Davis, with a ConservativeHome.com survey of party members making the Brexit Secretary their favourite as next PM.
Davis also had a net satisfaction rating of 78%, compared to Johnson’s 38%.
The ball, at the exclusive Hurlingham Club in west London, was less lavish than years gone by, but still attracted billionaire donors such as Michael Hintze, Peter Cruddas and Mick Davis.
Davis, Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, all considered potential leadership rivals, were seen ‘working the room’ at the event.
In one previous auction in 2014, a private tennis match with Cameron and Johnson went for £160,000.
A chastened Johnson used a BBC Radio 4 interview on Thursday to hail May’s “unbelievable grace and steel” after her disastrous decision to call a snap general election.
“There’s no vacancy for that post, nor is there going to be for a very long time,” he said, when asked about the Tory leadership.
“The last thing people want is any more of this kind of nonsense.”
Having allowed aides last weekend to float the idea that he backed a pay rise for public sector workers, Johnson also adopted a more nuanced approach to the issue, leaving open the idea of tax rises.
In her own speech to the summer ball, May told the audience she took full responsibility for costing the party its Government majority.
But she also pointed out that the Tories had scored their highest share of the vote since 1983 and the highest number of votes since 1992.
“I promise you this: there will be no sitting back, no licking our wounds.
“Instead, we will act with an unshakeable sense of purpose to make the very best of the new political situation.”