George Osborne has issued a partial apology for his “intemperate” remark that Theresa May should be chopped up and put in freezer bags.
The former Chancellor used a leader article in the London Evening Standard, which he now edits, to offer an olive branch to the Prime Minister.
Osborne came under attack from Tory and Labour MPs last week after it was claimed that he had told friends he “will not rest” until May is “chopped up in bags in my freezer”.
Fired by May in 2016, he has used the Standard to repeatedly warn her against a ‘hard Brexit’ and claimed that since her snap election blunder she is a “dead woman walking”.
On Tuesday, in what appeared to be a tacit admission that he had indeed joked about the PM being murdered, his editorial made clear his regret at the freezer bags jibe.
“We can reflect that strong differences of opinion do not need intemperate language, even when said in jest,” it stated.
When the remark was originally reported in an Esquire magazine profile last week, Tory MP Nadine Dorries attacked it as “macabre and worrying” and called for him to be banned from next month’s Conservative conference.
Labour’s Chris Bryant said the ‘joke’ was ‘misogynistic’, while shadow minister Cat Smith said that it encourged ‘violence against women’.
When asked about the comments by HuffPost UK, the PM’s official spokesman said at the time: “The contents of the (former) chancellor’s freezer are probably not one for me.”
But Osborne has now tried to distinguish between May’s former aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill and the PM herself.
“In the battles over Brexit, and over the future direction of the Conservative Party, some harsh words have been said about the Prime Minister,” the Standard leader stated.
“Her advisers created a poisonous atmosphere among senior Tories. But they are now gone, and a much more consensual team has recently replaced them in Downing Street. Mrs May’s critics in her party will want to respond in kind.”
Soon after his remarks surfaced last week, Timothy tweeted his own riposte.
In the editorial, Osborne praised the PM for backing the Standard’s campaign against modern slavery in London.
“Whatever the future holds for her leadership, today’s interview reminds us of Mrs May’s qualities.”