Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both been dismissed as “d*ckheads” by a former Tory Treasury minister appalled at the state of the Conservative party.
Jim O’Neill, who served under David Cameron and recently praised Jeremy Corbyn, used a Tory conference fringe meeting in Birmingham to vent his frustration that at the conduct of Hunt and Johnson.
Asked what the big challenge was for the party, the crossbench peer replied: “Stop being d*ckheads and saying such ridiculous things.
“It seems to be a particular honour of whoever happens to be Foreign Secretary to say evidently silly things.”
Hunt has come under fire this week after comparing the EU to the USSR in his keynote conference speech, with Theresa May joining others in slapping him down for the remark.
Johnson became notorious at the Foreign Office for his own gaffes, from suggesting British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe was a journalist to joking that business was deterred from investing in Libya by ‘dead bodies’ in the street.
Lord O’Neill, who was speaking at a Centre for Policy Studies fringe meeting, confirmed afterwards to HuffPost UK that he was referring to Johnson and Hunt.
“If we want to be truly ‘Global Britain’, then stop defaulting to gimmicky soundbites to the grassroots party, especially when it is inappropriate,” he said.
O’Neill, who was made made a peer by Cameron to allow him to become a minister, now sits as an independent crossbencher in the Lords.
A former chief economist for Goldman Sachs, he is famous for coining the term ‘BRICS’ to boost the growing role of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
He was cited by Corbyn last week after praising some of Labour’s recent radical ideas. “I find myself struggling to be that scared by the prospect of a Corbyn government,” he said.
“They have captured the mood of the times. It amazes me that so few on the right of centre have managed to grasp these issues.”
Hunt’s USSR comment has come under attack from former FCO permanent secretaries and Brussels chiefs born in Eastern Europe.
Johnson set out his own alternative leadership agenda on Tuesday at a packed fringe meeting where he claimed Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ Brexit plan was “a cheat” on the public.
May hit back in a series of TV interviews. She told the BBC: “There are one of two things that Boris said that I’m cross about.
“He wants to tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We are all - he and I and all members here are members of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”
The PM also tried to play down claims that the DUP could vote down her Chequers plan if the UK struck a compromise deal with extra regulatory checks on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Both DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds warned they could not agree to any ‘new’ checks.
May told ITV News: “We are continuing to work on that new offer and we will put a new offer before the European Commission.”
Meanwhile, at a fringe on Tuesday evening, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab underlined his own unease with the Chequers plan, saying it could deliver a “seven and a half out of ten Brexit”.